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Order in the plant-based court
This past week we spoke with Tofurky’s CEO Jaime Athos about why the plant-based meat company is leading a suit against a new Arkansas law that restricts the use of certain terms — like “burgers” or “sausages” — on meat alternative labels.
In short, large meat corporations and cattlemen’s associations, which are helping to push these laws forward, don’t seem to be doing so because they actually think people have trouble distinguishing a veggie burger from a beef one. They’re just running scared.
“Tofurky is reacting by pointing out that this is completely unfair,” Athos told me over the phone. “We know why [meat companies] are doing this and it’s a pretext to say it’s about consumer confusion.”
I understand why meat companies might feel threatened by the recent spike in flexitarian diets and the rise in popularity of plant-based proteins. What I don’t get is why they think making a law to restrict labeling will do anything to help their cause.
Big Meat trying to quash alterna-meats’ popularity by telling companies how they can or can’t label themselves feels protectionist and ineffective, not to mention desperate, at this point. After all, the flexitarian movement is gaining strength not because consumers are unclear about whether the burgers they’re buying are made from plants or beef; rather, it’s bolstered by growing environmental and ethical concerns, health reasons, or because meatless meat is a media darling.
Instead, meat producers — whose local lobbying groups, the Cattleman’s Association, are key players in pushing these labeling laws forward — would do better to diversify their own product offerings or even invest in the competition. They could launch a line of blended meat products, acquire or invest in new plant-based (or cell-based) meat companies, or even just offer more grass-fed, ethically raised options.
Or they could realize that they really don’t have a reason to worry. In the U.S., the number of flexitarians might be on the rise, but so is meat consumption. In fact, in 2018 the USDA predicted that Americans would eat more meat that year than ever before. This dual rise is likely spurred because of our national obsession with protein, and it means one thing: when it comes to the meat aisle, it’s not an either-or.
Chicken or the egg?
Last week I wrote all about how I thought chicken was the next opportunity for plant-based meat companies. But this week, I’ve been thinking about what came before the chicken: and it just so happened that Vox wrote an interesting story on how egg substitutes are also primed for a renaissance.
Right now there aren’t many players out there making eggs from plants — or at least not many options that actually taste good. The most notable is JUST, whose mung bean-based eggless scramble just went mainstream when it hit Costco shelves a few weeks ago.
Though the scramble is indeed tasty, I think the real opportunity for JUST Egg is in its other product: a pre-formed plant-based egg patty, like the eggs you find on fast-food breakfast sandwiches. These patties could potentially have a more widespread impact because they’re targeted for large-scale foodservice use — in fast-food, sports stadiums, or cafeterias — which means they could spur some large-scale eggless egg adoption. Especially once JUST Egg gets cheaper than the real thing.
Beyond does brekky
Speaking of eggs, how about a Beyond Breakfast Sausage Sandwich? You can get one for under five bucks — as long as you live in New York City.
Yesterday Beyond Meat announced a new partnership with Dunkin’, which will start selling breakfast sandwiches featuring Beyond’s breakfast patties — developed specifically for Dunkin’ — in all of its Manhattan locations.
First of all, I absolutely want to try this. My colleague Chris Albrecht got to try Beyond’s plant-based breakfast sausage when he toured their facilities last year and gave it a 10/10. Second of all, this is just a crafty way for Beyond to make its way onto our plates (or fast food bags) at all times of day — including first thing in the morning.
The company is also reportedly developing meatless bacon, which is not only a big departure from their previous repertoire of ground meat products but also sounds dang delicious. If they can pull it off.
Protein ’round the web
- It’s still just a rumor, but this week Livekindly shared whispers that McDonald’s in the U.K. could be adopting vegan breakfast items later this year.
- After four months, Impossible Foods says its product shortage is over! Huzzah.
- Cultivating black fly larvae cuts food waste and is a good source of protein. So why aren’t we doing more of it? (h/t Washington Post)