Cargill latest giant to cook up own plant-based ‘meat’

Agriculture giant Cargill announced plans Monday to launch a plant-based burger this spring, stiffening competition for fake-meat startups such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.

The privately held Minnesota-based company said restaurants and retailers will start receiving its private-label meatless patties and ground-beef-like product in early April, following other global meat giants’ forays into the growing plant-based market.

“We need to keep all protein options on the table,” Brian Sikes, the leader of Cargill’s global protein and salt business, said in a statement. “Whether you are eating alternative or animal protein, Cargill will be at the center of the plate.”

Cargill is just the latest challenge to Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, which have brought plant-based patties into fast food chains such as Burger King and Carl’s Jr. Meanwhile, Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods — which along with Cargill are among the world’s largest meat processors — launched their own plant-based products last year.

Shares in Beyond Meat tumbled 6.3 percent at the open to $110 amid news of Cargill’s new offering and were trading down 4.3 percent at $112.38 as of 1:27 p.m.

The restaurants, retailers, cafeterias and other customers who buy Cargill’s plant-based products will be able to rely on the agribusiness titan’s supply chain and scale, the company said. Cargill makes the products in its own facilities, “delivering the taste and consistency consumers want,” according to a news release.

In addition to its $7 billion in investments in animal protein in the last five years, the 155-year-old Cargill has put $100 million since 2018 into Puris, a pea protein producer and Beyond Meat supplier.

Beyond Meat did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Cargill’s move. But privately held Impossible Foods seemed to welcome the company to the plant-based arena.

“If Cargill makes a truly delicious and nutritious plant-based product that satisfies true omnivores — not a niche product for those who already avoid animal meat — this is a great move for people and the planet,” Rachel Konrad, Impossible’s chief communications officer, said in a statement. “The switch to a plant-based food system is inevitable, and even the livestock industry is starting to recognize and validate this transition.”

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