Plant-based diets are on the rise. Both vegetarians and vegans view their lifestyle as healthier, sustainable, and kinder to animals. This has prompted the alternative meat industry to grow and innovate, the two biggest players in this new space being Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. These companies don’t make tofu or black bean imitations of meat, they use sophisticated technology to make their products fully plant-based which taste and even cook like meat. In the case of Impossible Foods, their products even “bleed” like real beef.

Both Beyond and Impossible alternatives are highly processed and high in protein, sodium, and calories which doesn’t make them healthier alternatives to meat. So, if they’re not healthier why do they matter? The goal of companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are not necessarily to make healthy alternatives but to make a more sustainable alternative than meat.

Raising livestock for human consumption requires 20 times more land and resources compared to plant alternatives. Raising livestock also produces 20 times more carbon emissions per gram of protein than plant alternatives. Globally, raising livestock for human consumption creates greater rates of carbon emission than vehicles. These emissions will likely increase since worldwide meat consumption is increasing. The rising wealth around the world, especially in emerging markets, means that meat consumption will increase as demand grows.

These new offerings of plant-based meats aim to make plant-based diets more palatable for those self-proclaimed real meat-eaters. Previous movements such as “Meatless Mondays” tried to appeal to consumer morality however had limited success. By creating a competitive product that consumers would actually want to consume without the social or moral guilt has shown to be far more effective. Similar to the organic food movement, which caused a huge shift in the market, this new breed of plant-based meats might succeed whereas tofu and black bean patties have stalled.

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