Author of The Future of Food is Female (Out NOW!) | LinkedIn’s Future of Food Creator | Founder of Vegan Women Summit | Keynote Speaker | Board Member | Rolling Stone Contributor January 25, 2023 *This letter was originally submitted to the Editor of Bloomberg Businessweek on Thursday, January 19th, 2023. Businessweek declined to publish the letter.* To the Editor,
I’m writing in response to the story titled “Fake Meat Was Supposed to Save the World. It Became Just Another Fad.” While there is no doubt the author has spent a significant amount of time researching and reporting on this industry, the article misses critical points and fails to deliver on the conclusions it asserts.
The Over Generalisation of the Industry and Consumers
First, let’s talk about the consumers of plant-based meat.
The article asserts that plant-based meats 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% of plant-based meat buyers also buy meat, and only 2.79% of plant-based meat buyers are vegan or vegetarian. The idea that plant-based meat alternatives are some sort of uber-niche particularity serving 2% of the population is careless and inaccurate – and one that is being perpetuated in recent media articles with no basis.
There’s also the fact that one stock price doesn't dictate a $42B industry. The stock price drop of Beyond Meat – which makes up only 2.5% of the industry’s market – is repeatedly mentioned, yet no context of the broader ecosystem around meat is given.
Yes, Beyond is down 76%, but last month, the stock of Tyson Foods, the largest meat company in the US, hit a 3 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% 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. Fear-mongering Around Health Impact The article briefly mentions 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.
An example of an attack ad from CCF.
CCF, a lobbying group largely funded by meat conglomerates and tobacco companies, has run a ruthless multi-year campaign against plant-based meat, including commissioning countless paid studies to substantiate their 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, shall we?
Further, numerous independent studies have scientifically confirmed that plant-based meats are healthier than animal meats. This is an undisputed fact, despite the many attempts of opponents to cause fear in consumers. Ignoring Facts About the Climate Crisis There’s a massive elephant in the meat-based room: climate change. As this piece hit magazine shelves, Bill Gates and other global leaders gathered in Davos to discuss how to mitigate the climate crisis – with meat alternatives being a key solution. The environmental advantage of plant-based meat is clear
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% of greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture. If we’re going to address climate change, 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. There is simply no faster or more effective way to curb the climate crisis – and we really don't have the time to pretend otherwise. I’ll admit, the words of Beyond and Impossible are ambitious. Like most founders, these founders claimed audacious goals, such as ‘replacing meat ’entirely within 10 years. 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 idealisation isn’t unique to these companies. Many founders at 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 this 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 one of the world's leading business magazines 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? Share your comments below. If you liked this article, please share this post, follow me on LinkedIn, and subscribe to my newsletter above. You also might want to check out: ✨The Future of Food is Female, my award-winning debut book ✨Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok ✨Join me at our upcoming conference this May, The Vegan Women Summit ✨Drop me a line: jenniferstojkovic.com/contact