The beef industry is fighting back against their plant-based rivals as the market grows for meatless, lab-created products that closely mimic the sizzle and taste of meat grown on the hoof.
"Any time someone walks in the grocery store and makes a decision not to purchase our product and purchase another . . . we've lost a potential consumer," Jess Peterson, a lobbyist for the U.S. Cattlemen's Association and Montana cattle rancher told The Wall Street Journal. "It's a very small number, but it's a number that can grow."
The industry is pushing for laws limiting the use of words such as "beef" and "meat" to be used for animal-based products, building campaigns to highlight the nutritional benefits of beef while calling for health-risk testing for alternative products, and taking other actions in hopes of keeping people from switching.
There are currently labeling laws on the books in 12 states, with others considered in 15 other states this year, and in October, a federal bill was introduced.
However, restaurants and grocery stores are seeing growth coming from meatless products that include ingredients such as beet juice that allow them to sizzle like beef. Sales of the alternative products grew over the past year by 8%, according to Nielsen market research, while meat sales fell by 0.4% in the same time period.
As a result, beef producers are seeing a threat from meat-alternative companies like Impossible Foods Inc. and Beyond, and point to the growth of almond and other imitation milks that represent 10% of sales while traditional cows' milk retail has dropped.
Fast-food chains are also racing to include meat alternatives, such as with Burger King's "Impossible Whopper" and McDonald's announcement it will test a Beyond-based sandwich in its restaurants in Ontario.
Impossible says it wants to end all livestock production, which it has labeled as "prehistoric and destructive," and Pat Brown, the company's chief executive and founder, says the meat industry will do all it can to "throw obstacles in our way."
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