This article is part of our “Youth Head Delegate Blog Series” — written by our YHDs!
By Erika Chung
Alternative proteins have exploded in popularity in recent years, gaining immense mainstream attention. Advocates tout their similar look, taste and mouthfeel, sans traditional meat’s environmental impact.
Meat alternative company Impossible Foods and their competitor Beyond Meat have partnered with international franchises such as Burger King, Subway and KFC. These deals have attracted attention from many investors, with Impossible Foods raising $300 million in investor funding. Then in May 2019, Beyond Meat went public, trading at $25 USD. It sits presently at $120.
This YHD has tried the Beyond Burger and can confirm the meatless burger tastes nearly identical to a beef burger. The meat-like taste of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat products have greatly contributed to their success among meat eaters.
Another type of meat alternative has also begun its introduction to consumers. Cell-based meat, produced by companies like Memphis Meats, is not on the market yet but has been in the works for years. These real meat products are grown from animal cells in specialized labs. It eliminates the need for the slaughter of animals but preserves the very same meat and taste.
Meat alternatives are not new. For years, “veggie burgers” have been sold at mainstream grocery stores. But what sets Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and Memphis Meats apart?
Traditionally, meat alternatives appealed to a niche market of vegans and vegetarians. The new generation of meat alternative is targeted towards meat eaters. By producing tasty, cheap and nutritious products, meat alternative companies strive to promote plant based products to the average meat-eating consumer.
A significant driving factor in meat alternative interest is the environmental impact of meat production. Animal agriculture accounts for 14.5% of all GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, equivalent to the fuel burned by the world’s transport vehicles. Livestock is linked to both deforestation and water pollution, releasing harmful pesticides, sewage and antibiotics into the environment. If the average western consumer adopted a plant based diet, GHG intensity could be halved.
Meat production and consumption has long been a part of human history – through our myths, traditions and religion. The industrial revolution brought forth a change in animal farming. The factory farm maximized profit by keeping animals inside, feeding them grain and bred to grow fatter. Compared to vegetables’ water footprint of 322 L/kg, chicken uses up 4,325L/kg, pork 5,988L/kg, and beef 15,415L/kg.
Meat alternatives have the potential to replace meat products as a consumer’s first choice. Benefits of meat alternatives include reduced land use, water use and emission of greenhouse gases. This switch from traditional livestock could significantly help the environment in the fight against climate change.