Technology 3 min read

Lab Burger Update: The Food Industry Moves Toward Meatless Meat

Petrmalinak |

Petrmalinak |

A growing number of major brands around the world are investing in “meatless protein.”

Aside from “in-vitro meat” methods that bypass animals’ metabolism and produce meat directly from plants, the “meatless protein” market (which is expected to reach $5.2 billion by 2020) meets an increasing demand for meat-free yet meat-like proteins.

In 1909, Americans consumed an estimated 10 million pounds of meat, compared to over 52 million pounds in 2012, averaging more than 270 pounds per person a year.

When we consider the environmental costs of meat production, it’s clear that meat is anything but eco-friendly. In addition to grains, grazing land, and water, the production of a quarter-pound hamburger requires over 1,000 BTUs of energy.

Major agribusiness brands turn to plant-based protein alternatives.Click To Tweet

For almost a century, meat production and consumption have been on a steady rise in the United States and it is only in recent years that those numbers have begun to drop.

This downward trend can be chalked up to the availability of animal protein alternatives, such as plant-based protein products which are finding their way into the shelves of grocery stores and consumers diet.

Food Industry Giants Moving Toward Meat Alternatives:

Tyson Foods

Tyson Foods, the world’s largest meat processor, bought a 5% stake in Beyond Meat, a startup that produces plant-based beef and chicken primarily from pea protein.

The company also launched a $150 million USD venture capital (Tyson New Ventures LLC) to support startups developing meat alternatives.

Cargill Inc.

One of the four largest beef suppliers in the US, the agribusiness giant Cargill Inc sold all its cattle yards in order to exit this segment of the beef industry (cattle feeding) and redirected capital to develop plant, fish, and insect-based protein.

However, the purchasers of these feedlots will continue supplying Cargill’s beef processing plants.


Unilever is a multinational company with a catalog of 400 brands of consumer goods.

The corporation has joined the Plant Meat Matters project to advance the development of meatless steaks. The PMM project is based on the “shear-cell technology,” a technique developed at the Netherlands University Wageningen Food & Biobased Research.

Maple Leaf Foods

Canadian major consumer protein company, Maple Leaf Foods Inc., recently announced the acquisition of LightLife Foods for $140 million USD.

LightLife is an American manufacturer of refrigerated plant-based protein foods, with a 38% market share of the American $600 million USD market of plant-based proteins.

Pinnacle Foods

Packaged food conglomerate, Pinnacle Foods is not a meat supplier but is the parent company to many brands, including Gardein (garden protein), which produces plant-based protein foods. After the success of Gardein’s award-winning products, the company is pushing toward further development of its plant-based portfolio of products.


The French company Roquette, a leader in innovative food ingredients derived from plants, announced an investment of more than $400 million USD to build the world’s largest pea processing plant in Canada (Manitoba) to meet the growing demand for plant proteins.

MusclePharm, CytoSport, and General Mills

As you may have gathered, the cultivation of pea-based proteins is a growing business.

Known to be easy to digest, pea protein is used in foods for hospitalized patients and athletic nutrition supplements.

No less than three leading companies in sports nutrition–MusclePharm, CytoSport and General Mills–started rolling out entire lines of pea-based nutrition products, such as proteins powders, bars and butter.

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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