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Transforming the meat industry

A top 2019 contribution from Bruce Friedrich, Executive Director, The Good Food Institute

“If we can grow the meat without the animal, why wouldn’t we?”

It’s a great question posed by then-CEO of global meat giant Tyson Foods, Tom Hayes.

Why not indeed, particularly when producing animal-free meat could solve some of the greatest global issues of our time while paying serious dividends to the bright minds who make it possible.

It’s a question that a growing number of innovators have asked themselves as they race to bring the most compelling solutions – plant-based and clean meat – to market.

Since speaking to Innovators Magazine in January of last year, the momentum of this work to transform the global meat industry has been startling.

This trillion Euro market is growing rapidly, but its inherent inefficiency makes it ripe for innovation. It can’t happen soon enough, given the damage industrial animal agriculture causes to the environment, food security, public health, and animals.

That is why The Good Food Institute exists – to shift our supply from slaughter-based meat to plant-based and clean meat, which is real meat grown directly from cells.

The potential has been recognised by governments, big food, and some of the world’s largest meat producers, who, just like Tyson Foods, have made substantial investments in the space.

The success of established plant-based meat companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods continues to boggle my mind. Despite expanding production facilities and adding new shifts, neither company can keep up with the demand for their products, which now feature at popular restaurant chains like TGI Fridays and White Castle.

Perhaps even more surprising have been the advances in clean meat. Startups working in this space are now closer than ever to commercializing their products, already achieving milestones that some had predicted to be far in the future. For example. California’s Finless Foods aims to bring its bluefin tuna to market by the end of 2019, and Dutch company Mosa Meats has announced plans to sell clean meat beef by 2021.

Funding continues to pour into these companies, coming from global venture capital firms to the world’s leading meat companies like Tyson, Cargill, and PHW Group – which is the largest chicken company in Germany.

Canada’s largest meat producer Maple Leaf Foods acquired plant-based meat companies Field Roast and Lightlife. Also in 2018, Mosa Meats announced that it raised $8.8 million in funding with the support of Bell Food Group, one of Europe’s leading meat processors.

These investments have been a pleasant surprise, given that years ago, it was an open question as to whether the meat industry would work to stifle innovation in meat production. But instead, more and more meat companies have embraced plant-based and cell-based meat as they work to diversify their offerings to match consumers’ changing appetites. And research shows that consumers are hungry for slaughter-free meat, reflecting a growing concern around the health, ethical, and environmental impacts of conventional meat production.

Plant-based meat sales are soaring, with The Good Food Institute’s most recent survey with Nielsen showing that one in every five U.S. households are buying these products. Sales are up by 23 percent in just one year. If this growth rate continues like it did for plant-based milks, the market could soon be worth more than $10 billion.

There is also widespread interest in clean meat, with most Americans saying they would be willing to try it and would consider replacing conventional meat with these slaughter-free products. Fully 40% say they would pay a premium for clean meat. And that’s before any products are available on the market!

There is striking evidence to support our goal of transforming the meat industry to better means of production. From scientific breakthroughs and investor excitement to industry support and consumer demand, it could not be clearer that plant-based and clean meat will be the future.

These are the fields where innovators can do an amazing amount of good in the world, while doing very well for themselves in the process.

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Bruce Friedrich
Written By

Bruce Friedrich is executive director of The Good Food Institute (GFI), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes innovative alternatives to industrially produced animal products. Bruce has penned opinion pieces for USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. Bruce is a popular speaker on college campuses and has presented repeatedly at most of the nation's top universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and MIT. Bruce co-authored two books, contributed chapters to six books, and authored seven law review articles. Bruce graduated magna cum laude from the Georgetown Law and Phi Beta Kappa from Grinnell College. He also holds degrees from Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Economics.

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