Despite the fact that veganism and meat-free eating is growing in popularity, there has been a recent slew of negative articles and hit pieces against the plant-based industry.
One of the most recent came from Bloomberg. The global news agency just published a feature titled: “Fake Meat Was Supposed to Save the World. It Became Just Another Fad.”
As well as a particularly unappetizing main photo of a frozen vegan burger, the article contained cherry-picked statistics. And, what Impossible Foods called “one-sided anecdotes and editorialized framing.”
We’re getting tired of the fake information being shared about this industry, and it’s time to set the record straight.
Overgeneralization of industry and consumers
First, let’s talk about the consumers of plant-based meat. The Bloomberg piece implies that they are only bought by vegetarians and vegans, a false assertion that has been repeated ad-nauseum in the meat industry with no conclusive evidence.
An independent 2022 study showed that 86 percent of plant-based meat buyers also buy meat. And, that only 2.79 percent of plant-based meat buyers are vegan or vegetarian. The idea that plant-based meat alternatives are some sort of uber-niche particularity serving a small proportion of the population is careless and inaccurate — and one that is being perpetuated in recent media articles with no basis.
The stock price drop of Beyond Meat is repeatedly mentioned in the article, yet no context of the broader ecosystem around meat is given. One stock price doesn’t dictate a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Yes, Beyond is down 76 percent. But last month, the stock of Tyson Foods, the largest meat company in the US, hit a three-year low – largely related to the avian flu crisis, which is the biggest global outbreak of all time. Not only did turkey prices rise by almost 50 percent for Thanksgiving, but egg prices have drastically increased as well. In fact, food costs are up across the board and hurting every industry.
If you’re going to make the assertion that plant-based proteins are a fad based on stock performance, you should take Big Meat’s poor performance into consideration as well. And, let’s be honest, if we’re talking about the long game, the markets won’t take too kindly to stocks affected by the never-ending pandemics, droughts, and inevitable meat shortages to come.
Some articles briefly mention the Center for Consumer Freedom’s (CCF) campaigns to discourage people from eating plant-based meat. But this is a far more significant issue than the article implies.
CCF is a lobbying group largely funded by meat conglomerates and tobacco companies. It has run a ruthless multi-year campaign against plant-based meat, including commissioning countless paid studies to substantiate its false claims. Is it a coincidence that, only months after Beyond Meat had the largest IPO in two decades, CCF commissioned a $5 million dollar Super Bowl ad to claim that plant-based meat was unhealthy?
A plant-based burger is not a protein shake, but let’s be clear: the number one selling meat product in America is a chicken nugget (in fact, one in three Americans consumes chicken nuggets on a regular basis). While a Beyond Burger may not be a healthier alternative to a lentil patty, nobody is eating lentil patties. Americans eat “ultra processed” food every day – most of which are meat or dairy products. In fact, four of the top five selling meat products in America are ultra-processed meats. Let’s be honest about the ‘provenance’ of our foods.
Further, numerous independent studies have scientifically confirmed that plant-based meats are healthier than animal meats.
Ignoring climate crisis facts
There’s a massive elephant in the meat-based room: the climate crisis. As this piece was published, Bill Gates and other global leaders gathered in Davos to discuss how to mitigate the climate crisis – with meat alternatives being a key solution.
And they are not alone. The Dutch government recently shut down multiple livestock farms upon realizing there is no way for the EU to meet projected climate goals without producing less meat. Animal agriculture is responsible for 57 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture. If we’re going to address the climate crisis, meat alternatives (which produce drastically lower carbon emissions) need to be part of the conversation.
Furthermore, plant-based meats represent the most realistic and effective form of climate investment. A recent study concluded that investing in plant-based meats is four times more effective than green buildings. And, a staggering 11 times more effective than electric vehicles.
Taking on a century-old industry
I’ll admit, the words of Beyond and Impossible were ambitious. The founders claimed they would “replace meat” entirely within 10 years, for example. That statement was an impossibly tall order — how could one company dethrone a century-old $1.4 trillion dollar industry in only a decade?
But big vision idealization isn’t unique to these companies. Many founders at many companies spouted similar rhetoric at early stages – pretty much every founder does. Ambitious goals and world-changing hyperboles attract investors, which every company needs to survive.
The plant-based industry is not about money or short-term trends, as the Bloomberg article seems eager to have readers believe. It’s about changing the foundation of food to make our world habitable, less vulnerable to inflation and pandemics, and reducing critical amounts of greenhouse gasses.
As leaders in the business world focused on predicting the future economy, I leave you with one simple question: if you were to invest in the meat we will eat in a hundred years time, who would you put your money on?
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