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The fake meat gold rush

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The fake-meat boom is real, propelling startups to incredible heights while creating shortages of its own.

The big picture: The fake-meat market could be 10x its current size by 2029, Barclays analysts estimated in May.

  • "In fact, we believe that there is a bigger market opportunity for plant-based (and maybe even lab-based) protein than perhaps was argued for electric vehicles ten years ago."

Why it matters: The stock market in particular is treating Beyond Meat like a superstar, with its stock price up 4x from last month's IPO. But the companies must prove they can handle the demand.

  • "Last summer, locations of A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. were sold out of Beyond Meat’s burger for weeks," the WSJ notes.
  • "This spring, restaurants including American WildBurger locations around Chicago have run short of Impossible’s burgers. ... Craft & Crew Hospitality in Minneapolis hasn’t received scheduled shipments of Impossible burgers for weeks from a local distributor."
  • Both Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have ramped up production to meet demand. Impossible CFO David Lee told the Journal that “it will take us some time to get back into that synchronization of supply and demand."

Between the lines: The companies above are struggling to scale up plant-based meat imitators, let alone lab-grown meat, which even optimists estimate would cost $10 a patty as a best case scenario.

What's next: The cattle industry isn't taking kindly to fake meat, pouring cash into lobbying for regulation on what can be called meat at the federal and state levels, the Washington Post reports.

  • "On Jan. 1, Missouri became the first to regulate the names of aspiring meat alternatives, restricting the word 'meat' to only products harvested from livestock."
  • "Nebraska lawmakers are considering making it a crime to advertise or sell any product as meat 'that is not derived from poultry or livestock.'"

The bottom line: "Fifteen percent of U.S. restaurants offered meatless burgers in March, according to a Technomic Inc. study of menus from 6,000 operators, with the number serving them up 3% from a year earlier." [WSJ]

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