Tyson Food’s new CEO says the future of food may be plant-based protein. The food giant, which opened its doors during The Great Depression, currently owns a 5% stake in Beyond Meat, a plant-based protein startup.
“If you take a look at the FAO stats, protein consumption is growing around the world – and it continues to grow,” Tom Hayes, Tyson Foods Inc.’s CEO, told Fox Business. “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.”
Along with its investment in Beyond Meat, Tyson Foods has also established a $150 million capital fund to invest in startups that are developing meat substitutes.
Hayes, who took over as CEO last June, has vowed to eliminate antibiotics in most of the company’s poultry products.
The company made headlines earlier in the week after a strain of the bird flu was detected at one of its contract farms in Tennessee. Tyson says the issue is restricted to a single contract farm and reassured investors that the incident is a bird health issue and not a human health concern.
“We’re responding aggressively, and are working with state and federal officials to contain the virus by euthanizing chickens located on the farm,” said Tyson Foods.
As part of its commitment to create a sustainable food system, Hayes said the company is focused on cleaning up its factory farms and making a bigger investment in plant-based proteins.
Hayes says the company has performed extensive research on the poultry business, and is moving toward a vertical farming approach. Vertical farming, he says, will use 60% less land and provide a healthier environment for the birds.
“Our new purpose as a company is to continue to raise expectations for the good big food can do,” Hayes said. The CEO added that the company must come up with solutions and innovations.