Where’s the (alt) beef?
Beyond Meat is set to go public this week with a valuation over $1 billion in another sign that meat substitutes are heading mainstream.
Burger King earlier this month became the first global quick service restaurant to test a Whopper made from Beyond Meat’s main competitor, Impossible Foods, for a potential national rollout. A YouTube video shows numerous shocked customers after they’d eaten a plant-based burger containing wheat protein, coconut oil and potato protein.
Burger King’s existing vegetarian burger largely appeals to vegans and vegetarians, but those two groups only make up about seven percent of the population. Substitute meat and poultry is largely aimed at the wider audience of carnivores.
One driver of the meat alternative trend is the desire among more consumers to eat less meat for health reasons. Among other perceived benefits, meatless products avoid antibiotics used to feed livestock.
Ethical concerns over animal welfare is another driver, but cited even more often are environmental factors. Intensive animal agriculture is claimed by many to be a major source of greenhouse gas, water use and pollution.
Many proponents see the goal as reducing rather than eliminating Americans intake of meat. At the least, the opportunity that Tyson, Purdue and Nestle are also pursuing could be similar to non-dairy milk products, which has risen to 13 percent of the size of the traditional dairy milk business.
Some proponents vow meatless varieties will be required to fix a broken food system. Dan Altschuler Malek, a partner at New Crop Capital, an early investor in Beyond Meat, told the Guardian, “At some point, the planet will hold nine billion-plus people, and the reality is there are not enough resources to sustain current levels of protein consumption.”
One risk is a potential backlash to the genetic modification required to use plants to imitate the flavor and texture of real meat. Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown countered to the Chicago Tribune, “Pretty much everything that’s in the world’s diet is not something that just fell off the tree.”
- Beyond Meat Registration statement – Securities & Exchange Commission
- Beyond Meat is going public. Investors are betting on a new future for food. – Vox
- Burger King launches plant-based Whopper: ‘Nobody can tell the difference’ – Guardian
- Burger King Restaurants Test the Impossible Whopper – Burger King
- Behold the Beefless ‘Impossible Whopper’ – The New York Times
- Is that wheat protein in your Whopper? Plant-based meat sales rising. – Chicago Tribune
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How likely is it that plant-based meat alternatives will achieve the same popularity as non-dairy milk alternatives? What will be the biggest factors in whether or not consumers switch to plant-based meat alternatives?