Are Alternative Proteins Worrying The Meat Industry?

Plant-based products are a key driver of sales increases at grocery retailers nationwide, growing almost twice as fast as overall food purchases. Major meat producers are paying close attention.


By Carolyn Fortuna, CleanTechnica

Nov 22, 2021


In the US, 98% of people who buy plant-based meat also purchase conventional meat. It’s clear now that production of animal-based proteins has many limitations — environmental degradation, animal welfare, cultural considerations, and health constraints. The replacement of meat by alternative ingredients is fast becoming a norm in many countries around the world, with the numbers and varieties of alternative meat products expanding annually. The rapid growth of the alternative protein market is posing a threat to the conventional meat industry.


The global population is projected to increase to about 10 billion people by 2050. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), nearly half of the worldwide grain harvest is required to feed the livestock population, which amounts to 1.4 billion bovines, 1 billion pigs, 20 billion poultry, and 1.9 billion sheep/lamb/goats.


Agricultural production explicitly directed to human consumption accounts for just 37%.


Alternative meat is one of the biggest trends in food technologies, and it is proposed as an opportunity to address some of the problems created by conventional meat production and consumption. A market for animal-free and manufactured food items to substitute for the meat industry has been driven by the latter’s high GHG emissions, the land and water used for production, and the desire to reduce or eliminate animal agriculture.


Different from legumes, meat alternatives are foodstuffs made to smell, look, and/or taste like meat to fulfill similar functions in diets. Plant-based meats:


·         can replace traditional meat as a good protein source from the perspective of nutritional value

·         have less cholesterol and more dietary fiber, which can be appealing to consumers

·         can be made available to a wide range of consumers, such as those who rely on vegetarian, halal, or flexitarian diets


Considering the increasing environmental awareness and the rise of meat alternatives as substitute products, a question arises. What kind of threat do alternative meats pose to the meat industry?


Traditionally, most plant-based meat alternatives were manufactured by small businesses. What does the entrance into the emerging alternative meat market of large agri-food companies like meat processor Tyson Foods and food multinational Nestlé say about the future of the meat industry? (Author’s note: I found it slightly unnerving to see Jimmy Dean Plant-Based Breakfast Sandwiches in my local grocer’s freezer case recently.)


According to CB Insights, JBS, one of the world’s largest meat companies, launched its own meatless protein in June, 2020 and acquired Dutch plant-based meat manufacturer Vivera, Europe’s third-largest plant-based foods producer, for $408M (€341M) in April, 2021. Other meat packers offering their own lines of plant-based alternatives include Smithfield, Hormel, and Cargill.


Projections for Replacing the Meat Industry with Plant-Based Alternatives ...


Is a Vegan or Vegetarian Diet Too Exclusive? ...


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