Allan Barber foresees a time when red meat will be competing directly with a whole range of other proteins

By Allan Barber

The most imminent threat to red meat is a variation on the artificial protein theme with the development of burgers using a protein called soy leghaemoglobin by genetically modifying yeast and using fermentation.

Impossible Burgers, founded in 2011 by an ex-Stanford University professor, has found a way to produce the heme protein which is found in animal muscle and gives meat its unique flavour.

The company’s invention has passed a number of food safety tests and has gained a patent for use in plant based meats. It is also sustainable, using 75% less water and requiring a small fraction of the land required to produce cattle, at least in the USA. Impossible Burgers which currently operates out of a small factory in New Jersey has attracted US$75 million investment from several high profile investors including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Singapore wealth fund Temasek. This will enable the company to build a new factory capable of producing 5.5 million kilos a year, equivalent to four million plant based burgers every month.

The product is already being bought by eight high end restaurants in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, but the expanded facility will target 1000 such restaurants. Impossible Foods founder and CEO Patrick Brown said ‘Our goal is to make sustainable, delicious and affordable meat for everyone, as soon as possible.’

After six years of development work and trials Impossible Foods is only at the start of what could be a hugely successful transformation of global demand for meat, at least meat produced in the traditional manner on farm.

The next steps in this well-funded venture will determine whether there is sufficient demand for plant based burgers to expand further afield into American mainstream restaurants, fast food outlets and supermarkets and ultimately overseas markets.

Obviously this will only be a drop in the ocean of all restaurants in the USA, but it looms as a significant longer term threat to traditional beef consumption.

It will be interesting to track the success of the technology and to see how widespread its use becomes or if equally successful alternatives can be developed by other organisations.

There seems to be little doubt that the search for alternatives to the real thing will gather pace and within the next decade meat will be competing with a whole range of other proteins.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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6 Comments

Sat around the table and talked to Ranching friends in Ca over a few beers, we all had the same thought, vegetable protein burgers would easy to take %20 of the market. We wouldn't buy them all the time but our children especially daughters would all buy them. Thats our bull beef market gone.

For some reason farmers think they are immune from change but in reality we have to change just to stay where we are, and if you look at the damage done by large scale farming it's easy to see where the resentment comes from.

Just look at the gulf

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/01/meat-industry-dead-z...

I am in the mountains of north west Spain, we flew into Asturias (OVD) airport, booked online, budget carrier, £14 each way, booked our car through Expedia, half price, then drove a couple of hours into the mountains to stay at an AirBnB for £15 each a night.
Staying in the most amazing mountains, farmers are busy doing hay due to a late season, farms look to be about 50 acres, all the farmers are older than me. Cattle still kept under the houses and the house next door has chickens on the upstairs veranda. I can hear the scythe going as the farmer cuts grass, quick as a modern weed eater and a lovely rhythm.

Thats a lot of change for those industries, there are no hotels up here, we could visit before but never stay without airbnb, the owners are happy for the extra income and Airbnb is becoming more popular with locals, although this is the only place up here. Great walks, great forests, cattle have bells, love the place, local pub has local farmers playing dominoes and laughing into the night, food is cheap, wine is cheap and nature supplies the rest, but it's going to change, where are the young? Any school children have to travel miles.

People want better food and more people want it local. I can buy cheap food in UK, asparagus and beans, but the beans are from from Morocco the asparagus from Peru, peas from Zimbabwe,cheap cheap, but what the hell ! Everything looks imported, bacon is Dutch, veges are all flown in, it has kept food cheap. hardly any NZ lamb in supermarkets as most meat is local.

I see lots of change coming but as we are such an expensive place to farm, I don't know how rosy it's going to be. We could see some very disruptive technology affect a highly indebted industry in a very negative way. The world is awash with food, don't forget it, it not going to go away in a hurry, and competition will be fierce, especially from uncle Sam.

Anyway I'm driving to Leon, then via Portugal to Vigo and up the coast to try the surf, at airbnb all the way.

Brazil exports of beef up %30 over same month last year
http://www.brazilgovnews.gov.br/news/2017/08/beef-exports-are-up-31-in-july

Do you still specify well done, medium or rare?

Disruption is a conversation happening among farmers, largely with an acceptance that it is coming. What follows is usually discussion about being able to use credible provenance of our products in marketing and what do we need to do ensure this can happen.

Potential Impossible burger issue - they aren't gluten free. Will be interesting to see if the farming lobby in the USA stops synthetic meat being called 'meat'. Like recently happened in the EU with milk and milk substitutes.

The deluge of selling which took 21,501 contracts out of CME live cattle futures open interest this week appears to be over. The charts have been damaged and fear factor has increased. Today’s quietly higher trade has done little to calm fears. Traders are wondering, with the market now oversold, if a recovery is on deck or whether next week will bring another collapse.
There is no argument that immediate fed cattle supplies are the largest of this year and for several Augusts. And with big supply comes price pressure. Though this does not explain the waves of selling that swamped the futures market this week, that came on the heels of last week’s very stable cash market action
. http://www.thebeefread.com/