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THE GREAT RE-PLATEMENT: Prepare yourself for an avalanche of fake meat

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The fast-expanding array of meat mimics, plant-based, cultured and fungi-based, are quickly evolving as producers push to match the nutrition, taste, look, feel, smell and cost of conventional meat.

CORIE BROWN: Within six months, cultured meat companies say they expect the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, both of which have a say, to set the rules for getting their products to market. That, in turn, is expected to pave the way for cultured meat to start popping up in select restaurants next year. (It likely will be years before companies are able to produce enough cultured meat — competitively priced — for grocery store sales.)

Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods already proved meat lovers will put alternative proteins at the center of their plates… According to the alt-protein advocates at the Good Food Institute and Plant Based Foods Assn., their success propelled sales of U.S. plant-based alt-protein products in 2020 to $1.4 billion, a 45% increase over 2019, and that success has inspired a tsunami of alt-protein products.

The fast-expanding array of meat mimics — plant-based, cultured and fungi-based — are quickly evolving as producers push to match the nutrition, taste, look, feel, smell and cost of conventional meat. In no time, consumers will have “alternatives that will be flat-out identical products to those from animals,” says Eric Toone, technical advisor to Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund investing in carbon reduction technologies, including alt-proteins…

Cargill, the third largest player in the $1-trillion global meat industry, built its new North American Protein Headquarters in Wichita, Kan., where its mammoth beef operation shares the building with its fledgling alt-protein business. Elizabeth Gutschenritter, Cargill’s managing director of alternative proteins, says “protein is one business” at her company.

Working down the hall from Cargill’s buzzy cattle-trading room filled with salespeople on headsets, Gutschenritter’s nine-person team has built the company into the largest private-label producer of alt-proteins — for customers such as grocery stores and big-box outlets — in North America. “If there’s a conventional animal-based protein, we intend for there to be a Cargill plant-based option,” she says, adding, “That will be even easier to do with cell-cultured meats.”

Other giants in the meat industry are similarly enthusiastic about alt-proteins. Speaking from his office in São Paulo, Brazil, Gilberto Tomazoni, chief executive of JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, says his company plans to produce every type of alt-protein, including cultured meat. Asked if he thinks of himself as one of the “bad guys” responsible for today’s environmentally damaging industrial meat system, a universal sentiment among the leaders of the alt-protein movement, Tomazoni laughs. “No, no. We are all friends. We are not in competition,” he says, sidestepping the issue…

Research by Kearney management consultants makes Big Meat’s embrace of alt-proteins easy to understand. In 20 years, according to the 2021 study, the worldwide market for all types of meats. alternative and otherwise, will be $1.8 trillion. Annual plant-based alt-protein sales by then could reach $450 billion. Cultured meats, such as Upside’s chicken, will likely be even more popular, according to Kearney, with annual sales reaching $630 billion.

In the future, is it possible that Big Meat will dominate all protein categories? “They can do things on scale,” says Dale Jamieson, director of the Center for Environmental and Animal Protection at New York University, where he is a professor of environmental studies, philosophy and bioethics. “They can get legislation passed in Congress”. SOURCE…

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