White Meat Alternative/Analog

We’re very interesting in learning more about chicken and fish alternatives, whether plant-based or cell-based.

Why are we not seeing as much activity in R&D around creating white meat alternatives (fish and chicken)? Is creating a chicken or fish alternative more difficult than producing a red meat alternative?

@David_Meyer, @ychen53, @saraeckhouse, you might be able to help us answer this question. Please share your opinion with the community!

There are quite a few plant-based chicken alternatives from companies like Gardein, Morningstar, BOCA, Seattle FoodTech (focusing on institutional foodservice) and others but we agree that there is more R&D needed to create an “Impossible” or “Beyond” version of these products. My belief is that once a major food service company (KFC? Popeye’s? McD’s?) decides to launch plant-based chicken that it will signal the need for more innovation. Tyson is launching a mostly (has egg and dairy) plant-based nugget sometime soon - i’m interested to see the quality. One other issue to think about is that the primary reason consumers state when choosing plant-based foods is health and many consumers still view chicken and fish as having a health halo.

Lastly, there are a number of companies globally working on cell-based fish and chicken. From what I understand there is nothing more complicated with that production than with beef. Please subscribe to our newsletter at www.gfi.org to stay apprised of developments in the plant-based and cell-based sectors.

Thank you for your comment, @alisonGFI!

@Pasi, @JulieD, you might have insight on this topic as well. Why do you think we’re not seeing as much R&D around chicken and fish alternatives as beef?

The huge investment dollars that have funded Impossible and Beyond have focused on beef because of the price-point at which you can sell beef compared to chicken and most fish, as well as the perceived better health and environmental impacts of these other meats. The fundamental foodtech platform needed to create all types of plant-based meats are fairly consistent in terms of cost, so conventional meats that sell for less are harder for buyers to justify as more expensive plant-based versions.

At my company, Hungry Planet, we set out from the start to perfectly replicate a full range of conventional meats including beef, chicken, pork, lamb, turkey, crab, and tuna knowing that all need to be replaced if we are going to successfully bend the curve on human and planetary health. We’ve now completed testing over 2mm meals with this full range of premium plant-based meats in markets worldwide. The reception, across the board, has been outstanding.

I agree with @ToddBoyman, and specifically, the green house gas implications of beef have made it very attractive to investors and entrepreneurs. The green house gas implications of fish and chicken and not as stark per ounce of product produced (although they have other environmental costs such as groundwater pollution and energy waste for chicken (and farmed fish), and dangerous instability in ecosystems for many wild-caught fish . And as Todd points out, the price point of beef is higher than chicken and some forms of fish, and that price may be raised further as governments try to eliminate the externalization of green house gas costs by products such as beef. This all makes beef products financially ripe for replacement.

I agree also with @alisonGFI that when it comes to consumer adoption (which can impact likely interest of investors), fish and chicken don’t (yet) carry the perceived health issues that “red meat” does.

To answer the question that began this thread, we have to be much more specific than talking about “beef”, “chicken” or “fish”. We need to think in terms not of the source animal, but in terms of the end product that people consume. So, we have seen some success in the plant-based versions of “ground beef”, but not of steak in its various forms. There is an effort to reproduce “chicken” and that is mostly chicken nuggets or strips (tenders), but that’s different than wings, thighs, breasts, whole roasted chickens. And the term “fish” encompasses many species fo fish- from anchovies to tuna, from processed fish sticks to fish filets, to whole trout and sardines that end up on people’s forks.

So I recommend we start talking in terms of end products and not source animals.

The next step is then to understand what is the relevant importance of each source product. So for example, is most beef consumed in the form of ground beef, and very little as cuts of steak? Is most chicken consumed in the form of tenders and nuggets, and much less as whole body parts? In what form are most fish products are consumed? Canned tuna? Salmon filet? Processed fish sticks? And do keep in mind these answer will vary in different cultures (China vs. India vs. EU, vs. US, versus latin America.

I believe knowing these stats will inform where research is most needed, because we’ll understand the actual products that if copied perfectly, might best supplant the animal product that is not scalable and causing harm to the planet (and of course to those animals).

I’m trying to get answers to these questions and welcome any data or leads anyone has.

I think it would be interesting to watch how well KFC experiment with Beyond nuggets goes. I think in terms of one specific product - chicken nuggets - the success of plant-based alternatives is near. I agree with @David_Meyer, however, that it would be good to know what share of sales of total chicken products those account for worldwide, and what is the next big challenge to tackle - canned tuna or fish sticks?

And I think @David_Meyer 's comment is partially an answer to @Caroline 's original question. Burger is a very homogeneous good and a large market, so it is very clear what needs to be replicated. This makes it an attractive target for R&D. The fact that poultry and fish encompass a large variety of products consumed in a variety of ways, makes it a less attractive investment.

This, of course, is in addition to reasons others have raised, which I fully agree with. In particular, @ToddBoyman 's point about the price is crucial - while there is hope for plant alternatives to match burger cost, it is much harder for chicken, because chicken is so incredibly cheap to produce. In this context, efforts to affect regulation and legislation and corporate purchasing practices may help raise the cost of chicken production which in turn will then facilitate the task for PB alternatives.