Big Meat Heats Up the Plant-Based Protein Market.

Their products, and this vegan’s feelings, are mixed.

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The plant-based protein market is exploding and Big Meat wants in!

This week, in a sign of the times, two large meat industry players, Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms, announced that they will be selling protein-rich products with decidedly mixed origins.

Tyson Foods, the world’s second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork, unveiled a line of plant-protein enhanced products: Raised & Rooted.

Simultaneously, poultry giant Perdue Farms, unveiled a line of plant-enhanced nuggets, created in partnership with The Better Meat Co. Founded by plant-based advocate Paul Shapiro, Better Meat supplies plant-based ingredients to businesses eager for a piece of the plant protein pie.

What is Big Meat offering?

Tyson will be offering mock chicken nuggets (pea protein base with egg whites) and a blended burger (part beef and part pea protein).

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Perdue is offering “next generation” chicken nuggets, called Perdue® Chicken Plus™. These products use the same white chicken as their other nuggets but are enhanced with a blend of cauliflower, chickpeas and plant protein.

Who are they targeting and what are they promising?

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Tyson Foods is focusing on the health angle, and catering to this group of consumers:

“I hear that red meat is bad for me but can’t bring myself to break up with it, and nothing but the real thing will ever do.”

Their marketing highlights health benefits like more fiber and less saturated fat (notably versus “other plant burgers”). Ironically, their unsung environmental benefits (and animal welfare benefits) are likely to be far more substantial than their health benefits.

Another drive seems to be a bit of bet-hedging. According to Tyson:

“At Tyson Foods, we are more than chicken. We’re protein leaders. Food innovators who thrive at the intersection of opportunity and capability.”

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Perdue is tackling a different market:

“I know that I (and my kids) should eat more veggies but I (we) don’t actually like them.”

Their marketing highlights the extra veggie intake, without having to endure the taste of actual whole vegetables (sorry, I can’t resist a little sarcasm). Each serving contains one-quarter cup of vegetables (half a serving).

Perdue Chicken Nuggets have been a staple for families for years, but we wanted to provide an easy way to round out the meal and help parents put an end to the ‘eat your vegetables’ battle.

Big Meat vs plant meat: Different missions

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In contrast to the hot new plant-protein leaders Beyond Meats and Impossible Foods, big meat meat is not offering any fully plant-based products (yet) and doesn’t have any vegan intentions.

Beyond Meat and Impossible Food are highly mission-driven companies. They were both founded by plant-based advocates and are passionate about the importance of reducing our reliance on animal farming in order to feed the planet and control climate change.

According to Impossible Foods:

“ We’re making meat using plants, so that we never have to use animals again. That way, we can eat all the meat we want, for as long as we want. And save the best planet in the known universe.”

Says Beyond Meat:

By shifting from animal, to plant-based meat, we are creating one savory solution that solves four growing issues attributed to livestock production: human health, climate change, constraints on natural resources and animal welfare.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that these companies don’t care about profit, I’m simply highlighting that products do and will continue to reflect their missions. To me, mission matters. I should add here that Better Meat does have its eye on less meat but is executing by meeting meat-eaters half way. I place value in this.

The Bottom Line

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For most consumers, the trifecta of taste, price, and convenience are the bottom line.

The fully plant-based leaders such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have done a fabulous job competing on taste, and are continually improving their products (though I confess I’m not the best judge!). Both companies launched “upgrades” this year that are even meatier than the originals.

They are also becoming increasingly accessible. Here in Vancouver, I can find Beyond Burgers in half a dozen grocers, and as many chain restaurants. I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of Impossible, which I suspect will give Beyond a run for its money because of its super meaty secret sauce: a generous dose of heme (thanks to soy leghemoglobin).

Their next big hurdle is price. We pay $4 per patty up here in Vancouver, and my limited personal surveys tells me that this is big deterrent for many shoppers. My hope is that this will come down as demand rises and production efficiencies kick in.

Vegan musings

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As an advocate of plant-based diets, for animal welfare and for the planet, part of me thinks: “what the @?!”

Why not go with fully plant-based options that are already very meaty and getting meatier? Why settle for half the environmental benefits and half the lives spared when you can have them all?

I also worry, especially about the Perdue products, which try to make vegetables invisible for our kids, that we miss a big part of our job as parents — to cultivate their palates, and their concepts of what a meal looks like. Shouldn’t we be striving to fill our children’s plates in a way that aligns with the new food guides?

Another voice says: Every step towards fewer animal products helps. Even baby steps.

The latter voice wins. I’m glad to see the competition heating up, which will drive further innovation and awareness.

I’m eager to hear your thoughts — omnivores and vegans alike!

Resources

Stay tuned for upcoming articles on environmental impact of food choices.

Hungry for more?

For more insights into making smart, healthy, fearless food choices — and healthy, simple, recipes — check out my website (Fueled by Science), my Facebook page, or my Instagram feed.

About Me

I am formally trained in human genetics (PhD) and spent the first decade of my career working in cancer research, drug development, and personalized medicine.

This new chapter of my career is dedicated to helping others live their healthiest lives, using an evidence-based paradigm. I am passionate about fighting misinformation, and fearmongering. I also love taking on myths around the need for meat and dairy, and helping people “dial up” their plant intake in a way that is healthy and delicious.

I thrive on a meatless, moo-less diet and fearlessly enjoy soy, genetically modified foods, and all types of produce.

Written by

Scientist (PhD Genetics @Stanford) * Mother * Passionate about science-based healthy choices * Lifelong learner * Founder: Fueled by Science

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