Beef company Jensen Meat is getting into the plant-based industry. The California-based meat company—which supplies beef to retailers such as Walmart and Kroger—recently began construction of a facility geared toward increasing production and distribution of plant-based products. Slated to open in April 2021, the facility will be capable of a variety of processes, including cooking, hydrating, emulsifying, and forming plant-based patties for distribution to foodservice and retail sectors. Jensen Meat’s new plant-based division will also create job opportunities in the plant-based sector. 

“With 60 years’ experience, Jensen Meat has perfected how to process and pack quality ground beef. We now want to leverage our world-class knowledge to create a cost-effective process for producing plant-based products,” Jensen Meat CEO Abel Olivera said. “We can create, process, and pack plant-based products in ways that are cost-effective and innovative. We want to help bright minds out there that have the same goal of creating healthy, low-cost foods from alternative sources of protein, which also play a part in reducing world hunger.”

Investing in vegan meat
In May 2019, Jensen Meat owners Gregg and Jeff Hamann acquired vegan brand Before the Butcher for an undisclosed amount. Under the acquisition, Before the Butcher gained access to a $25 million line of credit, along with a 90,000 square-foot production facility and a cold storage warehouse. By December 2019, Before the Butcher tripled its retail distribution of its Uncut-branded burgers and sausages to hundreds of supermarket locations. In October 2020, the brand launched its Mainstream Plant-Based Patties to foodservice and retail providers at a price that is similar to ground beef.

Economies of scale
Production capacity and efficiency are some of the limiting factors of getting plant-based meat to price parity with its animal-derived counterpart. However, as meat companies begin to offer co-packing opportunities, plant-based meat products are likely to become more widely available at a lower price point. And Jensen Meat is not the first beef producer to expand into plant-based processing. In 2019, after experiencing a “supply-demand imbalance,” Impossible Foods partnered with OSI Group, a McDonald’s meat supplier for more than 60 years, to tackle the production challenges of getting the Impossible Whopper on the menu at more than 7,000 Burger King locations nationwide.

Photo Credit: Before the Butcher

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