Photo: Tyson Foods

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Earlier today Tyson Foods announced Raised & Rooted, its long-awaited venture into the alternative protein space. Its first products aren’t strictly vegan; they include both animal products and plant-based ingredients. One is a vegetarian chicken nugget made with egg whites and plants and the other is a blended burger composed of Angus beef and pea protein.

Tyson isn’t the only Big Meat company diversifying into the alt-protein market. Just yesterday, Perdue — the fourth largest chicken producer in the U.S. (Tyson is the first) — announced it would also be releasing a line of blended chicken products. Interestingly, Perdue sourced some of its plant-based ingredients with help from Better Meat Co, the startup which makes vegan protein meant to be blended with meat to make it healthier and more sustainable.

Perdue and Tyson are smart to take baby steps into the alternative protein space, though at this point it’s clearly too big a market opportunity to ignore (except for Arby’s, apparently). By starting with blended products, major meat processing companies can grow their customer base into a new market, all while retaining its existing infrastructure.

But there will inevitably be some pushback by those claiming that blended burgers and nuggets are purely a marketing tactic from Big Meat. Which they, of course, are — and a smart one at that. By rolling out a line of (at least semi-) plant-based meats, companies like Tyson and Perdue are showing consumers that they are brands which have their finger on the pulse of what’s new and hip.

Vegetarians and vegans may see these products as a step in the wrong direction. But to those who get in a huff about blended meat, let me say this: it’s a step in the right direction. Sure, consumers who eat a Raised & Rooted burger are still eating meat — but they’re eating less meat than they would otherwise. It’s a good stop-gap until plant-based darlings like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods perfect their products, or cell-based meat takes over.

Beyond Meat’s new Beyond Beef.

For those who prefer their burgers sans meat, this week Beyond Meat announced it’s now selling the long-awaited Beyond Beef in one specific Whole Foods in Boulder, CO. (Fun fact: That location was the first-ever to sell Beyond’s plant-based patties in the meat section.) The company is also dropping a new, meatier version of its plant-based burger patties with better fat marbling to give the patties a texture more akin to beef and apple extract to make the meat brown once cooked.

It’s no surprise that Beyond is firing on all cylinders, debuting new products and improving old ones at a rapid clip. Especially when Big Food companies — Tyson and Perdue, sure, but also Nestlé and Unilever — are all waking up to the potential of the plant-based protein market.

Beyond may have had a wildly successful IPO and enjoy a strong foothold in retail right now, but it’s got competition coming in — and not just from Impossible. No wonder it’s aiming for such an accelerated growth rate in its first year as a public company.

Photo: KFC

Protein new ’round the web

  • KFC in the U.K. is launching “The Imposter,” a vegan chicken burger made of Quorn (h/t The Independent). It probably won’t be long before KFC U.S. follows suit.
  • Dutch food giant Vivera is going to focus 100 percent on plant-based protein. It just sold the meat company in its portfolio, Enkco, this week.
  • Curious about how to grill up Beyond Meat’s burgers and sausages? We’ve got your guide.

That’s it from me this week! I was in San Francisco recently and somehow didn’t get an Impossible Whopper from Burger King. I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive myself.

Eat well,

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