Opinion: Tyson sees the future … and it ain’t only about livestock

More

Popeye's friend Wimpy would do just about anything for a burger.  And it turns out Americans feel the same. 

On average every man, women, and child here in the good ole’ USA eats three hamburgers a week. 

That's 50 billion burgers a year.

Of course, there are unwanted side effects from consumption of all that red meat.  As PBS reports:

  • It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of grain-fed beef.
  • We use eight times more land to feed animals in the U.S. than we use to feed humans.
  • The 500 million tons of manure created each year by American cows releases nitrous oxide, a gas that has 300 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.
  • The 17 billion pounds of fertilizer used to grow feed for cows flows into rivers and oceans, creating huge algae blooms where nothing can survive.
  • In total, 6.5 pounds of greenhouse gases are released to produce just one quarter-pounder burger.

Not to mention possible health-related issues with over-consumption of red meat.

And the fact is that if nothing changes eventually livestock production in the U.S. will not be able to keep up with current demand for a growing population.  There will come a tipping point.

Enter the Impossible Burger.

These burgers are taking the U.S. by storm.  I didn't have to travel very far from my local digs to try one.  And guess what? 

They are light years ahead of what now has passed for vegan burgers. 

The question is: Will the Impossible Burger (and other competitors eventual entries including Beyond Meat, Memphis Meat and Cargill) be a craze, or is this the future?

The nation's top meat producer Tyson Foods has gazed into the crystal ball and thinks it’s coming up meat substitutes. 

And the company is willing to put down big money on that bet.  

 Tyson's entry into the alt meat fray, Raised and Rooted, hits grocery stores this summer.

 First up are “chicken” nuggets.  And then in the fall comes the company calls a “blended burger”, made with Angus beef and pea protein.

Tyson company officials say they are not abandoning their traditional livestock business. 

And I totally believe that. 

But one day very soon alt meat will be a multi, multi-billion dollar business.  A whole LOT of zeros.

 And Tyson thinks that's the future too.  Imagine a U.S. public willing to substitute an alt-burger for a traditional meat burger once a week.  Or use alt-meat as a substitute in traditional meat recipes like chili or spaghetti.  Winner winner alt-meat dinner.

About Dave Dickey

Dave Dickey

Dickey spent nearly 30 years at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s NPR member station WILL-AM 580 where he won a dozen Associated Press awards for his reporting. For 13 years, he directed Illinois Public Media’s agriculture programming. His weekly column for the Midwest Center covers agriculture and related issues including politics, government, environment and labor. Email him at dave.dickey@investigatemidwest.org.