Plant-based alternatives to meat are in serious demand as they are gradually becoming more accessible. American companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are using science to provide the texture and taste of meat without slaughtering animals. Additionally, there are far less environmental implications with meat alternatives in comparison to traditional farming. However, cattle farmers have been left very dismayed because their industry could be under threat.
Cattle Farmers are Getting Nervous
The US Cattlemen’s Association filed a 15-page petition to the US Department of Agriculture earlier in the year. The petition demands that an official definition of both “beef” and “meat” should be produced by Washington.
The main threat to the traditional US food industry is plant-based “meat” which imitates the real thing. Another cause for concern is the development of “clean meat”. Rather than using plants, the meat is derived from stem cells. These are extracted from animals without any harm or slaughter and grown in a laboratory.
Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and the general advance of the plant food industry are the targets of the petition. Cattle farmers don’t view alternative protein sources as a direct threat to the beef industry at this present time. Their aim is to tackle improper labelling of meat alternative products which they believe could be misleading.
Key Plant-Based Players
Impossible Foods was founded in 2009. The aim of entrepreneur Patrick Brown was to produce a burger that would appeal to those who had given up meat because of any moral implications but still craved the real thing. He also wants to appeal to meat eaters by persuading them with a unique plant-based alternative.
The ingredients of the burgers include wheat, coconut oil and potatoes. Additionally, a molecule called “heme” which is also included create “plant blood”. When a plant-based burger with heme added is cooked, it changes from red to brown and oozes blood like beef. Furthermore, the taste is also identical according to Brown and his team.
Beyond Meat was founded by Ethan Brown (no relation to Patrick Brown, the founder of Impossible Foods) in 2009 and is endorsed by the American equivalent to the RSPCA, the Humane Society. The company is also supported by technology giant Bill Gates. The meatless burgers have already infiltrated the mainstream, as they are sold in supermarkets and served in restaurant chains like TGI Fridays. So far, 469 US establishments are serving Beyond Meat’s burger alternative.
An Important Change is Happening
As consumers are turning to meatless alternatives, cattle farmers are becoming nervous. Over the past year, sales of plant-based food have risen by 8.1%, whilst the demand for meat and dairy has fallen by 0.2%. Furthermore, 17% of US consumers eat a plant-based diet and another 60% stated that they were at least trying to reduce their meat consumption.
There is a significant consumer shift towards plant-based proteins. Already, the word “flexitarian” has entered the food industry dialogue, which describes a person who is primarily a vegetarian but occasionally eats meat or fish. Although the percentage increases may be small, they still indicate that people are becoming more aware about what they eat and where meat comes from. In particular, animal welfare and the use of antibiotics are a cause for concern amongst consumers. Companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have successfully identified this market and know that it will most likely expand further in the years to come. It is therefore unsurprising that traditional farmers are becoming increasingly worried.