The Good Food Institute is laser focused on using markets and food innovation to transform our food system away from factory-farmed animal products and toward clean meat and plant-based alternatives.
We know plant-based and clean meat can and will be vastly superior to animal-based meat in terms of environmental degradation, impact on human health, alleviating global poverty, and humane treatment of animals.
Given the inherent inefficiency of using farm animals to convert crops into meat, at scale, plant-based and clean meat will also be able to undercut animal-based meat in cost. Once that happens, the meat industry will be utterly transformed.
It has been an open question as to whether the current meat industry would see this coming transformation as an opportunity or a threat. Basic thermodynamics and economics make the transformation inevitable, but given the resources available to the incumbents, they could significantly delay the shift away from industrial animal agriculture, causing much more suffering and environmental damage than necessary. Or they could embrace the future and accelerate the change quicker than startups could on their own.
While there has been some pushback from the dairy industry, overall the signs have been encouraging. There has been a marked acceleration in the trend of established companies recognizing the growing importance of plant-based meat. In 1999, Kellogg acquired Morningstar Farms, which is currently the largest plant-based meat company in the US. The next year, Kraft-Heinz bought Boca and their “fool your friends” chick’n nuggets. In 2014, Gardein was purchased by Pinnacle Foods. Earlier this year, Nestlé bought Sweet Earth.
Even in the UK, giant conglomerate Monde Nissin Corp. owns both Quorn and Cauldron. In Germany, Nestlé has added Garden Gourmet into their meatless portfolio.
The meat industry itself now sees the writing on the wall. Tyson, the largest meat producer in the US, has invested in Beyond Meat. Giant meat conglomerate Cargill has invested in Memphis Meats.
And as mentioned just a few days ago, Maple Leaf Foods, Canada’s largest meat producer, has followed up their purchase of Lightlife (the number one maker of frozen plant-based meat products, as well as the amazing Gimme Lean) with their purchase of Field Roast. This is yet another sign that the markets, while not moving as quickly as we would like, can and will recognize an opportunity to move to better options.
We’ve seen this dynamic pay major dividends in the past. It was Dean Food’s purchase and subsequent promotion of Silk that moved plant-based milk to the mainstream. Now, plant-based milk has almost 10% share of the market, while plant-based meat is only about a quarter of one percent.
Paul Shapiro, author of the upcoming book Clean Meat, points to a parallel situation: “Just as we’d welcome BP moving toward solar and wind, we should welcome meat companies moving toward plant-based and clean meats.” As GFI’s Executive Director Bruce Friedrich wrote for the Wall Street Journal opinion page after Tyson’s invested in Beyond Meat, “I hope with all my heart that others will follow, creating a seamless shift away from animal meat toward healthier and more humane options.”