Many studies have urged us to eat less meat to improve our health, but scientists are increasingly recommending this lifestyle change as a way to help the planet. Cutting out meat, especially beef, benefits the environment by reducing climate change and the pollution of land and waterways.
Environmentalists have been warning about the growing carbon footprint of beef for some time, but it wasn’t until recently that meat eaters had a viable alternative: upstart companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have redefined the veggie burger by replicating the texture of real beef.
Meat alternatives have been available in supermarkets for some time, in both meat cases next to real beef and in vegetarian aisles, but it was their inclusion in fast-food menus that catapulted these burger substitutes to popularity.
An Investment in Sustainability
Partnerships with global brands such as Burger King and McDonald’s have showcased Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods to become favored not only by consumers, but also by venture capitalists around the world.
While investors have grown an affinity for ‘green’ ventures over the past decade, the overwhelming support for plant-based meats by Wall Street suggests shareholders are investing in more than just these two companies – they’re staking their claim in the future of clean meat.
Beyond Meat’s stock prices soared in its IPO last May, rising from $25 a share to almost $65 in one day, then spiking again at the end of 2019 after McDonald’s announced plans to test its ‘P.L.T.’ (plant, lettuce and tomato) sandwiches in Canada.
Rumor has it that the privately-held Impossible Burgers is valued at more than $5 billion; their products, made chiefly of soy and potato proteins and coconut and sunflower oils are found in over 17,000 restaurants, most notably in the ‘Impossible Whopper’ featured on Burger King’s menu.
Alternative Meat Investors are in Good Company
Richard Branson has expressed in his blog his plans for plant-based meat replacing traditional meat in roughly three decades. He has even invested in clean meat startup Memphis Meats, who is committed to developing the production of real meat from animal cells – without the adverse effects of feeding and breeding livestock, and eliminating the slaughter of animals.
Beef Production is Wasteful and Inefficient
Raising livestock is the world’s greatest consumer of land resources. Deforestation is constantly making way for cattle, while for every pound of meat produced, the animal is fed more than 13 pounds of grain. It’s been estimated that methane emissions from cows are equal to amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by every car, truck and airplane on the planet.
With rising awareness of the damaging environmental impact of meat production, consumers are open to protein substitutes now more than ever.
Even though the production of meat remains high, it’s clear people are eating less beef overall. American beef consumption has dropped roughly one-third since its peak in the 1970s: dipping from almost 80 pounds to a low of 57 pounds per capita, according to 2017 data compiled by Agricultural Economic Insights, LLC.
As beef alternatives make the move from fringe to mainstream, they’re being embraced by burger lovers everywhere. It will still be a while before they replace the experience of cutting into a juicy piece of steak – but they’re working on it.