The food world recently walked in on a fledgling affair between unlikely bedfellows: one, the largest meat producer in the United States; the other, a vegan food startup hell-bent on bringing innovation to the protein market.
The news of Tyson Foods investing in Beyond Meat brought both celebration and condemnation from the alternative protein camp. To some, it signaled a new commitment from Big Meat to address the problems associated with factory farming and be a part of the solution moving forward. Others questioned Beyond Meat’s fidelity to its core mission of reducing meat consumption.
But this “sleeping with the enemy” analogy is deeply flawed. In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, GFI’s executive director Bruce Friedrich explains why this shift from meat to plants signals hope for a more humane future:
Some took to Facebook to accuse Beyond Meat of 19 shades of nefariousness. ‘The blood of all the abused animals is on your hands,’ went one of the milder posts.This is exactly the wrong reaction. Don’t misunderstand: There’s no love lost between me and Tyson. When I was vice president for campaigns at PETA—People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—I planned news conferences to launch undercover investigations into Tyson’s farms and slaughterhouses. I’ve been a vegan for almost 30 years.Yet I want to publicly thank Tyson for being the first major meat company in the U.S. to invest in plant-based proteins. I hope with all my heart that others will follow, creating a seamless shift away from animal meat toward healthier and more humane options.
Beyond the obvious concerns with human health and animal suffering, the financial risks associated with factory farming have become a hot topic as of late–enough so that an investor coalition representing $1.25 trillion in assets is urging food companies to diversify and explore more sustainable protein production. Unsurprisingly, Tyson was among the companies tapped by the coalition, and its subsequent support of Beyond Meat is a nod to this movement.
To remain economically viable in a changing environment, Big Meat will have to stay nimble, and turning to innovators like Beyond Meat is a great way for the industry to take meaningful steps in the right direction.
We can only hope that this is the first step in the movement to put a Beast Burger, instead of a beef one, on every plate in America.
To see how GFI works to support plant-based alternatives to conventional animal agriculture, visit our website.