Patrick O. Brown, MD—CEO of plant-based company Impossible Foods—recently shared his belief that the existing infrastructure of the meat industry will be repurposed to facilitate the transition to a plant-based future. During a recent webinar hosted by University of Chicago’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, Brown explained that while slaughterhouses will no longer be useful in plant-based meat processing, other jobs and tools will be preserved in the transition. 

“Everything downstream of [slaughterhouses], actually, a lot of it can be repurposed. If you work at an animal-based meat counter, and what goes into that counter is plant-based, we still need you,” Brown said. “If you’re a trucker who’s transporting food from farm to distributors or something like that—and currently it’s animals, and in the future it’s plant-based products—that job doesn’t go away. Jobs will change. Many jobs will change, but workers will still be required.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been exposing inefficiencies and weaknesses in the animal meat supply chain. Current estimates from the Center for Disease Control show that at more than 4,900 meat packing workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and major slaughterhouses nationwide—where people typically work shoulder-to-shoulder—are limiting operations, causing meat shortages and price hikes. 

Impossible Foods and its competitors are filling the void by reducing prices and increasing retail distribution of plant-based meat, paving the way for a future when vegan meat is more affordable, widely available, and equally delicious as its animal counterpart. During the webinar, Brown called the meat industry “inefficient prehistoric technology … that hasn’t improved in millennia,” and reasserted his goal of creating plant-based alternatives to all food animals by 2035.