The threat of meat substitutes

with Bill Webb
Bill Webb Feed Solutions

Welcome to the new farmers to our district – and all the best for this new season. The threat of plant-based proteins to our beef and dairy sectors is a hot topic.

Last month a US-based production company called Beyond Meat, which makes plant-based burger patties and sausages, made history by achieving the best first-day result this year on the US stock market.

Their shares, which opened at US$46 (NZ$69.58), closed their first day of trading up 163 per cent to US$65.75 (NZ$99.46) in New York, giving the company a market value of about US$3.8 billion (NZ$5.7 billion.

I understand in the previous two years this company has suffered losses of $30 million annually. So obviously they haven’t made much money but when they listed shares, some thought: ‘Oh, I should invest in this’.

From research, I can tell you when compared to a ‘normal’ 113g patty of 80 per cent lean beef with 80mg of cholesterol and 9g of saturated fat, a Beyond Meat patty has no cholesterol and 5g of saturated fat. The patties are made of pea protein and beet juice, and the company says its plant-based burger takes 99 per cent less water and 93 per cent less land to produce than a beef burger, and generates 90 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Another California-based food company attempting to revolutionise the way we think about animal agriculture with its plant-based meat substitute is called Impossible Foods.

Founder and CEO Pat Brown started his business in 2011 after his research led him to discover “the detrimental impact of meat production on the planet”.

He says meat production is considered by far one of the world’s greatest contributors to climate change, not only for the level of greenhouse gas it produces, but the water and land consumption it requires.

This is the sort of stuff going on in the US. The real facts in relation to animal farming versus plant farming and the environmental impact are…we don’t know – but clearly the US public is showing they’re concerned about meat production and how it relates to climate change.

Environmental initiatives

So, what’s happening in NZ in regards to this? Beef + Lamb NZ has rolled out environmental initiatives to support farmers. They have two goals – every sheep and beef farmer has a tailored and active environmental plan by 2021; and the whole sector moves towards becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

We’ve just had a Zero Carbon policy debuted by the Government – so we’re going to have to do something about our emissions. Dairy farmers as well as sheep and beef farmers will need to look really closely at what they’re doing – and what their competition is. We need to keep our finger on the pulse.

The enthusiasm shown towards Beyond Meat is a warning to our farmers that health and environmental claims of the alternative meat industry have to be countered by adopting these clean practices – as soon as possible – otherwise we risk losing business to this new industry.

On a lighter note, Fieldays this month is a real good chance to look at innovations that may solve problems and improve operations on-farm. Think about what investments could help you to get an edge in production, whether it be labour-saving, health and safety-related or helping to reduce your environmental footprint. Is there anything that enables you to reduce carbon emissions?

We need to be looking for and at these things and getting our heads around them – especially with what could be on the horizon and how consumers’ tastes are changing. The US used to be our biggest market for beef – we don’t want our foothold sliding away to meat alternatives.

Nitrate warning

Farmers need to be wary of their pastures’ nitrate levels now. Things have been growing well, so nitrates are a real issue. Take leaf samples to your veterinarian for testing – do this before you put stock on pasture, not afterwards. It is wise to feed out silage or hay before putting stock on new pasture. Keep monitoring stock and the nitrate levels.

Farmers need to spray pastures for weeds and give them a dose of nitrogen after the first grazing and until clover gets established.

Grass has been slow to recover from the dry summer and autumn, so for anyone caught short of supplementary feed we still have a good supply of quality grass silage, hay and straw available for immediate delivery – just give us a call.


There are no comments on this blog.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to make a comment. Login Now
Opinion Poll

We're not running a poll right now. Check back soon!