Another Major Meat Supplier Is Investing in Plant-Based Proteins

It’s beginning to look inevitable. Plant-based protein is slowly, surely securing its place as the preferred protein source for consumers. If you need to be convinced, look no further than the latest development from Cargill, Inc.

Cargill is one of the four largest U.S. beef producers and the world’s single largest supplier of ground beef. It came as quite a surprise, then, when the company announced that it intends to sell its last two cattle feed yards. The decision will enable Cargill to instead direct its capital toward alternative proteins, chief among them plant-based.

“Selling our two remaining feed yards aligns with our protein growth focus by allowing us to redeploy working capital away from cattle feeding operations to other investments,” John Keating, president of Cargill’s protein business operations, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

In July 2016, Cargill sold two of its cattle feedlots in Texas. Now it’s selling the last two in Kansas and Colorado.But make no mistake, the company is not leaving meat behind.

Unfortunately, Cargill is just divesting itself of the business of feeding cattle to spend that money in other ways it deems more profitable. One of those ways is investment in alternative proteins. And plant-based proteins are high on that list.

Investing money in plant-based proteins is the smart move right now. Today’s consumers are — more than ever before — turning to plants as a primary source of protein. As of 2012, sales of meat alternatives reached an impressive $553 million. The sector is expected to grow to a staggering $5.17 billion by 2020.

With demand like this, these days it’s odd not to see a — non-salad — veggie alternative on nearly every restaurant menu. Meat substitutes include such options as tofu, tempeh, seitan, textured vegetable protein and soy products like soy curls. In the hands of an experienced chef, a meal that includes any of these products will make you realize you never need to eat meat again.

Photo credit: Susan Bird

Photo credit: Susan Bird

Companies making alternatives to meat have the interest of visionaries like Bill Gates. He’s investing his money in companies like Beyond Meat, which makes vegan beef and chicken substitutes that rival the real thing, and Impossible Foods, which makes the now famous Impossible Burger.

A host of other companies are also making wildly popular plant-based meats these days. Have you tried Gardein, Field Roast, Tofurky, Yves, LightLife or Boca Burgers? These days, you can find several plant-based meat options in pretty much any grocery store you choose to name. Even Target and Walmart carry a variety of these products now. For vegans and vegetarians, that’s terrific news indeed.

In addition, artisan vegan meat makers are flourishing around the country. Look at all the buzz surrounding the opening of The Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis. They’re not the only plant-based butchers, either.

Check out the offerings of Brooklyn’s Monk’s Meats, Berkeley, California’s The Butcher’s Son and Jacksonville, Florida’s The Zen Butcher Company. Yes, the demand for high quality plant-based meat is great — and poised to grow exponentially.

According to the Plant-Based Foods Association, the factors driving the incredible growth in consumer demand for meat substitutes include:

  • Increased awareness of the health risks of eating meat, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes;
  • Better understanding of the environmental impacts of industrialized meat production, including greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, negative impacts on farmland and oceans, and increased water use;
  • Public concerns over animal welfare abuses and industrial meat scandals, including foodborne illness outbreaks.

With this decision, Cargill joins Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat processing companies, which decided in 2016 to invest money in Beyond Meat.

Cargill’s announcement comes as yet one more example of a meat-centric company recognizing that plant-based protein is our future. For these companies to have any hope of sustainability, it must be.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

137 comments

Telica R
Telica R22 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Stephanie s
Stephanie s2 months ago

happy to hear it, ty

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Stephanie s
Stephanie s2 months ago

happy to hear it, ty

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Stephanie s
Stephanie s2 months ago

happy to hear it, ty

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Melania P
Melania P3 months ago

I would not trust Cargill, but as consumers reduce/stop their beef consumption brands will need to do this. I hope this is true!

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Chad A
Chad A4 months ago

Good move for whatever reason.

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Shailja Mukhtyar
Shailja Mukhtyar4 months ago

baby steps... for the wrong reason- filling their pockets / not for brownie points w/ their maker- for doing good, making up for the evils of thier lifetimes... in the butchering industry - animal s & humans heath they helped destroy - w / carcinogens/ chemicals/ poisons/ lies galore

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Alexis M
Alexis Miller4 months ago

Very interesting read.

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David Anderson
David Anderson4 months ago

I wouldn't get too excited. Cargill is most likely not only freeing up capital for a more lucrative endeavor, but at the same time shifting the bulk of the financial risk in meat production to smaller suppliers rather than doing it themselves. As for the plant proteins, somehow I have a difficult time believing that industrialized agriculture will be any better or healthier here than it is elsewhere, right down to corn with a mere fraction of the nutritional value of heritage varieties.

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