This week, JLF’s Joe Coletti published a research brief as part of our Thanksgiving 2019 series. Coletti’s piece focused on the influx of mock meats into the food market in recent years. Coletti writes:

Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are the most notable entrants in the race to make a meat substitute that acts like meat but is made entirely from plants. They have tremendous capital behind their efforts to make meatless meats that appeal to meat lovers.

Unlike meat substitutes of the past, these products are innovations in the market:

The new products aim to look, feel, taste, and bleed like a beef burger. They have been profiled everywhere from The Today Show to Freakonomics, where you can find a fascinating discussion of how researchers tried to make heme.

Wait, heme? We’ll let the marketing folks from Impossible Foods explain:

Heme is what makes meat taste like meat. It’s an essential molecule found in every living plant and animal — most abundantly in animals — and something we’ve been eating and craving since the dawn of humanity.

Coletti adds:

What does all this have to do with Thanksgiving? Throwing millions of dollars in venture capital funding to take food from the field and run it through a lab so it can seem like something the meat that is deemed environmentally unsustainable is about the most American approach to veganism I can imagine. Having the money, technology, and market incentives to make it possible is truly worth giving thanks, regardless of whether the bet is right or wrong, silly or profound. 

The market can bring forward all kinds of innovations, even plant-based meat substitutes. America’s market-based economy allows for these products to be invented to fulfill people’s wants and provide something new and exciting. Coletti writes:

This Thanksgiving, I hope you will take a minute to thank those great adventurers and innovators who have given us so many of the good things on or near your table, including those that began or have flourished here in North Carolina: Pepsi, Cheerwine, Texas Pete hot sauce, Krispy Kreme donuts, and Mt. Olive pickles, North Carolina-raised pork, poultry, soybeans, and sweet potatoes, and house recipes for pimento cheese and nanner puddin’. Not to mention the North Carolina-based grocery stores, banks, breweries, wineries, distilleries, and restaurants that add to the bounty.

Read the full brief here. See the rest of the Thanksgiving 2019 series here.