The CEO of plant protein startup Beyond Meat, Ethan Brown, believes that in 50 to 100 years, the supermarket meat counter will no longer have a relationship with animals. The transition to a meat counter filled with plant protein will be similar to how society moved from the horse-drawn carriage to the automobile, said Brown at Wired’s Business Conference in New York on Tuesday.
Beyond Meat makes plant-based meats and is currently selling a chicken product at select stores like Whole Foods. The product hasn’t been widely available, but is supposed to be scaled up at stores in the coming months. Beyond Meat has a partnership with Whole Foods, and the startup is looking to sell its products out of the meat counter instead of in an alternative meat section, which Brown described as “a penalty box.”
In contrast to the current fake meat products on supermarket shelves, Beyond Meat is trying to use technology to create food that mimics the taste and feel of eating meat. We’ve got “OCD; obsessive chicken disorder,” joked Brown, explaining the company is looking to replicate “the fibrous structure of meat.”
The company is backed by Kleiner Perkins and Obvious Corp, the company behind Twitter. As I wrote in this article earlier this year, Silicon Valley investors have been looking to fund sustainable food innovation. Brown said that Beyond Meat grew 50 percent last quarter. “If we’re successful, we can be like Tyson or Perdue,” said Brown.
The animal meat market is a $177 billion market, said Brown. While Beyond Meat is focused on selling its chicken product, it’s also working on a beef product made from pea protein and sea salt.
The World Bank says that livestock contributed to 51 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions globally. “The efficiencies around taking protein from plants instead of animals is massive,” said Brown.