The future of alternative meat and its growing threat to the trucking industry

The alternative meat industry is a market that goes by a variety of names, including lab-grown meat, artificial meat, meatless meat, faux meat, plant-based meat, cultured meat – trumped only by the wide range of opinions that this futuristic menu option has met with from consumers. 

Though the appeal of alternative meat is not brand-new, the quality of meat replacements in the market today has never been better. Alternative meat today has progressed from the rubbery meat substitutes of the last decade to products that now look, feel, smell and taste extraordinarily close to the meat derived from the livestock industry. 

While plant-based meat alternatives hold a larger share of the market, some companies work on cell-based meat alternatives wherein cultured cells taken from animal tissues are multiplied to create meat. Though this meat alternative has the distinction of not coming from the farm, it still technically is animal-based meat. 

Aside from the remarkable likeness to animal meat, alternative meat scores higher on the nutrition chart. In the context of calories, plant-based alternative meat has fewer calories, while also providing a healthier version of protein compared to conventional meat. Cell-based lab meat is also a healthier alternative to conventional meat, as the cells can be engineered to add more protein and vitamins, while reducing saturated fat and cholesterol from their composition. 

This has led to a widespread explosion of interest, as a growing tribe of consumers understand the obvious advantages of shifting loyalties from conventional meat to alternative meat options. 

The initial public offering (IPO) of plant-based meat company Beyond Meat last year generated a great deal of press, as the company’s valuation rose 163% above its IPO price on first-day trading. Investor trust in the company is not without reason – the alternative meat industry is just getting started, and Beyond Meat is well-positioned to ride the growth wave. 

In its report, investment company UBS has forecast the alternative meat industry’s market size to go from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $85 billion in 2030 – expecting it to grow by 28% year-on-year. The alternatives do not stop with meat, with product lines including plant-based eggs and milk. UBS believes the plant-based milk industry shows exceptional promise, estimating that sector to be worth $37.5 billion by 2025. 

The alternative meat industry’s relevance in transportation cannot be undermined. Though alternative meat companies count on a wide variety of consumers, including vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters, their growth will come at the expense of the conventional meat industry. If livestock volumes decrease, it will eventually mean fewer freight trips. The ag-freight sector now faces a disruption that it cannot circumvent.

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