Sales of plant-based alternatives to red meat, poultry, and seafood are down 20 percent from their peak in 2020 and the industry "faces something of a tipping point," said a report by agricultural lender CoBank on Monday. "Consumers remain interested in the concept of plant-based meats, but concerns about highly processed products and higher prices have put off many prospective regular consumers," wrote CoBank senior economist Billy Roberts.
The Midwest has long been known for its vast fields of corn and soybeans, but there is a new crop on the rise — peas. With growing consumer demand for sustainable and plant-based protein options, farmers are adding peas as a crop rotation because it's profitable, drought tolerant and can improve soil health.
Three-and-a-half years after it received a cattle group's petition to define "meat" and "beef" as referring only to the flesh of food-bearing animals, the USDA said it has no authority over the labeling of alternative proteins from plants and insects. The FDA regulates those products, said the Food Safety and Inspection Service, and when it "is made aware that a non-animal product is being labeled as 'meat' or 'beef,' FSIS refers such information to FDA."
Plant-based meats, an alternative to beef, pork and chicken, have only a toehold in the meat market but U.S. farmers expect their market share will grow rapidly. Half of the farmers surveyed by Purdue University said plant-based proteins could hold up to 10 percent of the meat market in five years and some expected the share to be much larger.
More than half of all Americans would eat more plant-based foods if they had more information about the effect of their food choices on the environment, said a survey released on Thursday. (No paywall)
Leaders of the National Pork Producers Council appealed to China to remove its 60 percent tariff on imports of U.S. pork so it can bring down the soaring price of pork for Chinese consumers.
An estimated 40 companies worldwide are in the race to bring to market cell-based meat — "clean meat" in the eyes of proponents and "fake meat" according to ranchers. Asked if the product qualifies as meat, Deputy Agriculture Undersecretary Mindy Brashears responded, "This is something we will be talking about. That is an important priority for us."
The U.S. Cattlemen's Association petitioned the USDA to establish label requirements for laboratory-grown meat and alternative proteins, said the weekly Tri-State Livestock News, of Belle Fourche, S.D. "We look forward to working with the agency to rectify the misleading labeling of 'beef' products that are made with plant or insect protein or grown in a Petri dish," said USCA president Kenny Graner.
Maple Leaf Foods, Canada's largest distributor of packaged meats, says it will buy Field Roast Grain Meat Co. in an expansion of its role in the North American market for alternative proteins. Based in Seattle, Field Roast produces grain-based "meat" and vegan cheese products, such as plant-based roasts, sausages, burgers and sliced cheese. It also makes a frozen vegan mac-and-cheese.
The market for plant-based foods grew an average of 8.1 percent last year, compared to a decline of 0.2 percent for all other foods, according to data compiled by the retail sales research group, Nielsen. According to the report, which was funded by the The Good Food Institute and Plant Based Foods Association, the market for plant-based meats specifically rose 6 percent from a year ago, while plant-based dairy alternatives saw 20 percent growth. Nielsen found a 5-percent decrease in cow-milk sales, but a 3.1-percent increase in sales of plant-based milk.
In a public letter, the chief executive officer of Impossible Foods defended the company’s methods of producing a popular plant-based burger that is designed to mimic meat. The method includes genetically engineering algae to produce a soy protein, which the FDA has said could raise allergen concerns.
It's still a small part of the market, yet "burgers made from plants instead of animals are capturing more space on U.S barbecue grills this summer," says Reuters, pointing to estimates of global sales of $5 billion by 2020. Consumer research firm Technomic says alternative meat products are targeted at millennials and Generation X, people aged 18-50 years.
The giant U.S. food processor Tyson Foods launched a $150-million venture-capital fund "to invest in high-tech products and services that could refresh its stable of products, which include chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers," reports the Wall Street Journal. One focus of the fund will be alternative forms of protein, a field that includes plant-based foods, insect-based protein products, meat grown from self-reproducing cells and meat from 3-D printers.
Bruce Friedrich is executive director of the Good Food Institute, which collaborates with scientists, entrepreneurs, and investors to develop and promote plant-based alternatives to meat, milk and eggs. FERN’s Kristina Johnson called Friedrich to ask him about the future of plant-based proteins.