There will soon be a new entrant in the plant-based meat shelf, and it’s a big one. Today Cargill, the global food and agriculture giant, announced that it would release its own meatless patties and ground products in early April. The new offerings will be sold both through retailers and restaurants.
According to Reuters, Cargill’s new faux meat will be made of both pea and soy protein. Beyond Meat is made of pea and Impossible of soy, so it’s intriguing that Cargill has chosen to combine the two to try and differentiate itself and nail the flavor of meat.
Flavor aside, Cargill has one advantage over newer upstarts like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods: its massive supply chain. The corporation has been operating for 155 years and is one of the world’s largest privately held companies. With its size and scope, Cargill can scale quickly and likely won’t face any supply hiccups, which have plagued both Beyond and Impossible in the past.
These are the first plant-based meat products from Cargill, but the company has been bulking up its alternative protein involvement over the past few years, including investments in pea protein producer Puris (which supplies Beyond Meat) totaling $100 million.
That is just a drop in a bucket compared to the $7 billion Cargill has invested in animal protein in the last five years. Despite dipping its toe into the alt-protein space, the company is still known globally for its involvement in animal agriculture, including the trade of beef’s two main feed sources: corn and soy.
Cargill is far from the only Big Meat company diversifying into alternative protein. Tyson and Perdue have both rolled out blended meat products; that is, offerings that are a mixture of meat and plants. Last year pork producer Smithfield debuted a line of plant-based ground meat and patties. Others, like Nestlé and Unilever, have taken the acquisition route and bought Sweet Earth Foods and the Vegetarian Butcher, respectively.
Like this growing list players, Cargill claims it’s not moving away from meat, but rather diversifying its offerings to meet the growing demand for protein of all stripes. Brian Sikes, leader of Cargill’s global protein and salt business, summed it up in the release: “Whether you are eating alternative or animal protein, Cargill will be at the center of the plate.” Come April, we’ll see if the global company’s new products have the taste to make that statement true.