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Food’s future is meatless, largest meat processing CEO says

Americans are eating more meat substitutes.
Americans are eating more meat substitutes. Creative Commons

Tyson Foods Inc. CEO Tom Hayes recognizes his company’s top product may not be the star of America’s food future.

Hayes, who leads the largest American meat processing company, said Tyson must adapt if it wants to have a place on American tables. He said statistics show that worldwide protein consumption is growing, but meat is being outpaced.

“It’s not just hot in the U.S.; it’s hot everywhere. People want protein, so whether it’s animal-based protein or plant-based protein, they have an appetite for it,” Hayes told Fox Business. “Plant-based protein is growing almost, at this point, a little faster than animal-based, so I think the migration may continue in that direction.”

Meat alternatives are expected to be worth $5.17 billion by 2020, according to a report released in 2015. The industry was worth an estimated $3.8 billion that year. The 2016 Global Food and Drink trends report found that not only vegetarians are seeking out meatless meat.

“Veggie burgers and non-dairy milks have escaped the realm of substitutes primarily for people with dietary concerns and followers of vegetarian diets,” the report found. “Instead, the growing ranks of novel protein sources and potential replacements appeal to the everyday consumer, foreshadowing a profoundly changed marketplace in which what was formerly ‘alternative’ could take over the mainstream.”

Tyson has invested $150 million to fund startups developing meat substitutes. It also owns a 5 percent stake in Beyond Meat, a company that calls itself “the future of protein.”

“Our mission is to create mass-market solutions that perfectly replace animal protein with plant protein,” the company’s website reads. “Replacing animal protein with meat made from plants would do wonders for human health, for the environment, for conservation of natural resources and for animals.”

“Meatless Monday” has become popular among American consumers increasingly conscious of health and the food they put into their bodies. The movement calls on people to eat vegetarian one day a week to reduce meat consumption to better their health and the environment.

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