As evidence becomes more prevalent regarding the environmental impact of raising cows for food and dairy, more is being done to resolve this issue. One solution that is being floated is using seaweed feed as an alternative, which results in the cows producing less methane (of which they make a lot — 1/4 of all methane production). However, one of the most significant responses to this has been to explore alternatives to beef.
These attempts at other options have been highly successful, but what does this success mean for beef farmers?
How The Beef Industry Is Impacted
Vegetarian and vegan alternatives, for several years, have had the reputation of not only not accurately reproducing the taste and texture of meat but also because, frankly, a lot of alternatives are not very tasty.
However, there was a niche to be filled, and eventually, it was filled. In addition, the growing consensus among the public regarding climate change caused the public to be more conscious about their environmental impact.
The combination of this desire to do what they can for the environment and meat alternatives becoming more accurate to the taste and texture of regular meat drove growth in the meat alternative industry. One of the significant reasons, aside from the methane, cows prove to be harmful to the environment is how much more calories go into producing the calories from a beef cow. Specifically, it takes 35,000 calories of feed to make 1,000 calories worth of beef. These impacts have seen the beef industry lose out on market share, which has hurt various aspects of it, such as farmers, butchers, meat packers, etc.
Regardless of the environmental benefit of using meat alternatives, it cannot be denied that the meat industry is profitable. Being environmentally conscious is not a bad thing by any means, but conventional wisdom suggests that we must always understand that a business exists for a profit before activism.
One of the critical factors that helped businesses succeed in this industry is the positive personal characteristics of millionaires behind them. The decisiveness, persistence, and risk-taking that developed their companies and brands helped elevate them to new heights and money. These hard-driving entrepreneurs are aggressive and agile and willing to respond to new challenges as they come and meet their clients’ changing tastes and needs.
The Response To Meat Alternatives
There have been several responses made to meat alternatives. Obviously, farmers are concerned over how this will affect their livelihood, but it goes beyond that. The government, responding to lobbying efforts of meat lobbies and meat-related industry associations, has attempted to crack down on specific aspects of meat alternatives. For example, politicians in Mississippi pushed for a bill to restrict how meat alternatives may be labeled. Even calling a beef patty alternative a “veggie burger” would not be allowed under this law. This law ultimately failed due to a lawsuit by the Plant-Based Food Association, leading to terms like veggie burger being allowed, so long as the food is clarified to be vegetarian, vegan, meat-free, or another similar term.
How The Future Looks For Meat Alternatives And The Beef Industry
While the meat alternative industry accounts for only one percent of retail meat, projections suggest it will not stay at this level for long, much like how milk alternatives grew exponentially in recent years. Plant-based meat alternatives are projected to outpace the industry growth of milk alternatives. Whether this will remain the case should be interesting to watch, and how much impact will be had on beef and dairy farmers. There is also questioning whether there is a future for cattle and dairy. There will inevitably be a market for both, with some being unwilling to convert to a meat alternative. However, one saving grace for the cattle and dairy industries is advancements in technology regarding producing dairy and beef without raising cattle. Not only does this reduce methane produced, but it also proves to be more affordable.