In America, now that the industrial meat supply chain is floundering, its uncanny imitators might be primed for success. And the dinosaurs of the industry have certainly taken notice.
MATT SIMON: The distribution infrastructure that normally gets plenty of beef, pork, and chicken to American grocery stores has begun to buckle as meatpacking facilities become Covid-19 hot spots and shutter, leaving farmers with nowhere to send their animals. Those livestock are consequently growing too big to process, so farmers across the Midwest are having to gas or shoot tens of thousands of animals and throw them away, all while millions of Americans are going hungry.
The core problem behind this wastefulness is the convoluted way we consume protein. Farmers grow protein in the form of feed, which other farmers supply to their livestock; the animals convert that into new protein in the form of flesh, which is prepared in processing plants and sent to stores. That’s a whole lot of middlemen, and more links in the supply chain that can snap.
But in recent years, alternatives have emerged, promising to cut out those middlemen. Companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat skip the livestock entirely: Their factories convert plant material into a striking imitation of real meat… So given their simplified supply chains, might such alternative proteins rocket into widespread consumption during the pandemic, supplanting traditional meat?
Well, Nielsen reported that in the nine weeks ending on May 2, sales of alternative meat products in grocery stores went up 264 percent. But really, alternative meat options were well on their way before the pandemic hit. The Impossible Burger and Beyond’s meat substitutes have infiltrated the fast food market, popping up at Burger King, Carl’s Jr., and Del Taco, and are now available in grocery stores nationwide.
For these companies, the potential to scale up their production is considerable… One of the reasons fake meat makers can grow relatively quickly is because they can halt or ramp up production at their factories on demand… For instance, a Beyond Meat spokesperson says that compared with a quarter-pound US beef burger, its same-sized patty uses 99 percent less land and 93 percent less water. In some ways, these facilities may also be less susceptible to outbreaks of diseases like Covid-19 than traditional meat processing facilities…
In America, now that the industrial meat supply chain is floundering, its uncanny imitators might be primed for success. Consumers who were introduced to the products in fast food restaurants over the last few years seem to be seeking them out in grocery stores, now that everyone is cooking at home more. And the dinosaurs of the industry have certainly taken notice. SOURCE…