Alternative meats such as plant-based meat and lab-grown meat put the future of animal agriculture at risk of extinction.

The world of plant-based meats has been taking off the past few years and this has many in the farming industry worried. The trend of moving away from the traditional burger intensified earlier this month when it was announced that McDonald’s and Yum! Brands had signed a three-year partnership with the alternative meat company, Beyond Meat. Yum!’s chain of restaurants includes the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell chains.

Speaking of the deal, Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute, a non-profit which promotes the alternative meat industry, said in a statement that “McDonald’s and Yum Brands have doubled down on plant-based meat and have demonstrated the long-term potential they see in the category. This is the clearest sign yet that the future of meat will be plant-based. With more restaurants and revenue than any other food chains on the planet, McDonald’s and Yum Brands will bring plant-based meat onto the mainstream menus of millions of people. When these restaurant chains move, the entire food industry takes notice. These agreements will reverberate throughout the global supply chain and send a strong signal for the future of plant-based meat in restaurants.”

In 2019, alternative meat company Impossible Foods signed a deal putting their products on the menus of Burger King and Qdoba. The same year, Dunkin’ Donuts’ Beyond Sausage Sandwich hit the market.

A recent study on the economic impact of the alternative meat industry found that the plant-based food market is expected to reach $74.2 billion by 2027. The financial services company Barclays estimates the market for alternative meat could grow by 1,000{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} over the next 10 years, reaching $140 billion.

This popularity has been fueled by environmental and climate change reasons as well as animal welfare concerns and a general interest in health and wellness.

The transitions are also strengthening their way into the political arena. Last month, Colorado governor Jared Polis promoted the March 20 MeatOut Day to the state’s residents and asked them to forego meat for one day. The proclamation was intended to educate consumers about the “benefits of a healthful, plant-based diet,” according to the Governor’s office.

“Polis poked the eyes of cowboys last month when he declared March 20 (the first day of spring) as MeatOut Day, asking the state’s residents to forego meat for one day,” says Greg Henderson in an opinion piece for Drovers. “The proclamation was intended to educate consumers about the ‘benefits of a healthful, plant-based diet’….On its own, Colorado’s MeatOut Day is likely to have miniscule impact on actual consumption of meat, and cowboys are right to call it for what it is – a slap in the face to ranchers everywhere. More importantly, reducing meat consumption is unlikely to provide the desired impact on the environment or the climate.” In his piece, Henderson points to a 2019 study by the University of California – Davis which says eliminating meat would only reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2.6{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63}.

According to the most recent Ag Economy Barometer, released by Purdue University and the CME Group, over half (55{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63}) of producers who took the monthly survey said they expect alternative protein sources to capture up to 10{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} of the combined market for animal and plant-based protein. A majority of farmers said they think the impact on farm income arising from alternative protein capturing a 25{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} share of the total protein market would be negative, with approximately four out of 10 producers saying that they would expect to see farm income decline by 10{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} or more.

“Obviously, they’re very concerned about how this is going to play out,” Purdue economist Michael Langemeier said on the popular “Adams on Agriculture” radio show. He stated that a market share of 5 – 10{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} would be “a game-changer…something that would have ripples throughout production agriculture.”

According to the EPA, the largest sources of U.S. GHG emissions in 2016 were electricity production (28{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} of total emissions), transportation (28{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} ) and industry (22{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63}). All of agriculture accounted for a total of 9{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63}.

Currently the traditional meat sector still vastly outpaces the alternative meat sector. In an interview with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, analyst Ann-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics, says that grocery store sales of refrigerated meats totalled $82.5 billion compared to plant-based meat sales of $475 million in 2020.

Traditional meat companies are not standing passively by though. The past couple of years, Tyson, Smithfield, Perdue, Hormel and Nestlé have all rolled out their own meat alternatives, putting their own plant-based burgers, meatballs and chicken nuggets on the market. “While most Americans still choose meat as their primary source of protein, interest in plant and blended proteins is growing significantly,” said Noelle O’Mara, Tyson Foods’ chief marketing officer, in a 2019 rollout of their alternative meat. “These products appeal to a broad cross-section of consumers who enjoy food from a variety of protein sources and we expect interest to continue to grow across protein types.”

There are three routes alternative meat makers are currently taking. The most notable plant-based products are the ones championed by Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. The second is the cultivated meat sector (aka lab-grown meat), which is meat that is derived from the stem cells of animals. And the third, less known, are fermentation-derived proteins which are made from micro-organisms.

Original source: https://www.forbes.com