The CEO of Tyson Foods sees a growing demand for plant-based protein

Beyond burgerLeanna Garfield/Business InsiderTyson Foods owns a 5% stake in Beyond Meat, which produces a plant-based burger.

Tyson Foods — one of the world’s largest meat producers — believes that plant-based protein is a huge opportunity for his industry.

In an interview with Fox Business, Tyson CEO Tom Hayes said he sees a growing demand for meatless protein.

“If you take a look at the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) stats, protein consumption is growing around the world — and it continues to grow,” Hayes said
. “It’s not just hot in the US; it’s hot everywhere, people want protein, so whether it’s animal-based protein or plant-based protein, they have an appetite for it. Plant-based protein is growing almost, at this point, a little faster than animal-based, so I think the migration may continue in that direction.”

In October 2016, the company bought a 5% stake in Beyond Meat, a Silicon Valley startup that makes plant-based beef and chicken primarily from pea protein (no real meat is involved). After former Tyson CEO Donnie Smith left in December 2016, Hayes took over, and the company launched a venture capital fund worth $US150 million that invests in startups developing meat alternatives. In February, Tyson also said it will remove antibiotics from the majority of the its products by the fall of 2017.

The company faced some controversy in 2016 and early 2017 over allegations of price fixing and chicken abuse, but Hayes said it is committed to contributing to a sustainable food system.

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