In a bold move that surprised advocates from both sides of the issue, meat company
Tyson Foods acquired 5% of the LA-based startup Beyond Meat in their latest funding round. Beyond Meat’s mission is to create mass-market solutions that perfectly replace animal protein with plant protein. Tyson’s vision is “to be the global innovative leader of food experiences.”
For Tyson, the move is meant to help the company take steps to explore the alternative protein market. “It meets our desire to offer consumers choices and to consider how we can serve an ever-growing and diverse global population while remaining focused on our core prepared foods and animal protein businesses,” said Monica McGurk, executive vice president of strategy and new ventures at Tyson and president of its Tyson Foodservice division.
Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat’s CEO commented on his blog: “Today, we take another step toward the broader market as we welcome Tyson Foods to Beyond Meat as a minority investor. The investment provides an opportunity for each party to get to know one another and to explore possible collaborations (Tyson touches 2 of 5 plates in the United States).”
This partnership comes at a time where consumers, especially Millennials, are expressing concern and curiosity about the source and safety of their food. Food Manufacturer reports “consumers in the UK continue to be misled that pork products, such as bacon, sold in some supermarkets and foodservice outlets are of British origin, when in fact, it is sourced from countries overseas where animal welfare standards may be lower.”
Studies have shown that vegetarian or vegan diets result in a longer life expectancy and decreased risk of chronic diseases. The Wall Street Journal reported on a 2013 study of 73,308 members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. According to this report, which covered 6 years, vegetarians in the study experienced 12% fewer deaths over the period. Dietary choices appeared to play a big role in protecting the participants from heart disease, from which vegetarians were 19% less likely to die than meat-eaters. There also appeared to be fewer deaths in the vegetarian group from diabetes and kidney failure.
Another study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine Journal covered scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital, who monitored health and diet records of more than 130,000 people over the course of thirty years. They found every three per cent increase in calories from plant protein was found to reduce risk of death by 10 percent. The figure rises to 12 per cent for risk of dying from heart disease.
Is this the start of a new trend, where meat, dairy and egg companies invest in alternative proteins in an attempt to hedge their bets, capitalize on a growing sector of the marketplace and increase shareholder value?