Rhonda Brooks: What's the Meat On Your Menu?

August 21, 2018 03:57 PM
Rhonda Brooks

Do you prefer to eat meat, vegetables or some of each? Regardless of how you answer that question, now you can have your, umm, burger, and eat it, too. While beef, pork and chicken are still the protein mainstays in the U.S., so-called meatless meats are showing up routinely in supermarkets, restaurants and, increasingly, on our dinner tables.

Here’s just a handful of the data and details I found regarding the development of meatless meat:

  • Sales of plant-based proteins in the U.S. totaled $670 million this past year, according to the Plant Based Foods Association. For comparison, the beef market in the U.S. is a $200-billion-plus industry, according to John Nalivka, Sterling Marketing.
  • About 43 million people, which is 14% of U.S. consumers, regularly use plant-based alternatives such as almond milk, tofu and veggie burgers, and 86% of these consumers don’t consider themselves vegan or vegetarian, according to The NPD Group, an information company.
  • Development is underway of so-called “clean meat,” which is meat grown from animal stem cells. It’s called clean because no animals are slaughtered. There are approximately half a dozen start-up companies based in Silicon Valley working on developing clean meat. Faunalytics, a nonprofit research company “dedicated to helping animals,” says its research of 1,200 consumers shows “66% of people would try clean meat, 53% would eat it as a replacement and 46% would be willing to buy it regularly.”
  • In July, the Food and Drug Administration gave its stamp of approval to the Impossible Burger, an all-plant-based burger that “bleeds and sizzles just like meat.” To date, the burger is served in more than 1,000 restaurants around the country.

There’s no denying many of the consumers we serve today are looking for alternatives to traditional protein resources. As a beef producer’s daughter that reality stings. On the other hand, as the Editor of Farm Journal, I realize many of you with crops might look at Americans’ embrace of plant-based proteins as a market opportunity that could help sustain the future for your farm. That makes total sense to me.

I’m also a proponent of animal agriculture. Fortunately, for those of us who love raising livestock and producing meat, the future for traditional protein is not all doom and gloom. The 2017 Mintel Plant-Based Proteins report states, “more than two thirds (67%) of Americans agree meat is essential to a balanced diet, and just over half (51%) believe a meal is not complete without meat.”

You can read more about this issue in our cover story on page 11 and at AgWeb.com. If you have thoughts on meatless meat, pro or con, drop me a line. I’d like to hear from you.

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