A Stampede of Meatless Products Overrun Grocery Store Meat Cases

Authors: Heather Haddon and Jacob Bunge
Source: Wall Street Journal 

Staring at the pink, prepackaged burger patties in the meat case of a Kansas grocery store this spring, Larry Kendig felt disgust. Mr. Kendig, 68 years, was so bothered he took the department manager aside to explain his beef with U.S. food labeling rules: Do shoppers really know what goes into those burgers? Nothing from a cow. The “Beyond Meat” patties that offended Mr. Kendig were made with pea protein, canola oil, coconut oil, potato starch and “natural flavor.” They’re part of a posse of look-alikes invading meat country—from plant-based burgers that ooze “blood” at first bite to chicken strips grown in a tank from poultry cells.

Stakes are high for the roughly $200 billion U.S. meat market. Sales of alternative meat products account for less than 1% of fresh meat sales in the U.S. but are growing at an annual rate of 24.5%, according to Nielsen Total Food View. Sales of plant-based “milk” climbed 7% over the past year, while conventional milk sales declined by 4%. High-tech upstarts say the proposed labeling rules are a poor defense, pointing out that on a molecular level, plant-based meat products can contain the same amino acids, fats and minerals as animal flesh. “People don’t get angry when you call your cellphone a phone,” said Ethan Brown, chief executive of Beyond Meat.