Big changes in the food industry

Almond trees

Almond tree farm

For years, the dairy and meat industries have been producing staple foods that they thought every person needed to eat in order to be healthy.  In many countries, especially in the United States, these industries are subsidized by the government to encourage production, support the farmers and keep the costs for consumers down.  But gradually the winds of change are sweeping through the food industry.  People are recognizing that these products are costly and inefficient, damaging to the environment and very hard on the animals. In addition they’re not good for our health as people liked to think. More and more people want to buy alternatives.

With the growing popularity of plant-based milks, yogurts and cheeses, the dairy industry has been hit particularly hard.  The owners of Giacomazzi Dairy in California have decided that enough is enough. “We have to either invest to upgrade this dairy or invest in something else. Over the last 5 years, it’s been very difficult to make money in the dairy industry.”

So the Giacomazzis are becoming almond farmers.  They’ve already planted 400 acres of almond trees and are planning to expand with 500 more acres in the future, using advanced irrigation systems so no water is wasted.  They are not alone.  Many dairy farmers are turning their backs on the industry, recognizing that they’re better off putting their money into planting almond or pistachio trees, or grape vines. They see a lot of alternatives that provide a higher return than milking cows. The California Ag Network and Dairy Herd Management have even recommended that farmers diversify into growing almonds. In 2017, the CEO of the Almond Board of California, Richard Waycott, told Food Navigator that almond production is predicted to rise to 3 billion pounds by 2021.

Across the ocean in Europe, the number of vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians (people who choose plant-based meals most of the time) is rapidly rising. The meat industry is starting to feel the pinch.

Vion vegan burgerDutch meat giant Vion is turning a beef processing facility into a dedicated vegan meat factory. Constructed in 2017, the facility in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, previously had the capacity to slaughter 2,500 cows per week. Now Vion will transform the site for plant-based meat production. There will be new production lines, more storage, and freezing facilities. The new facility will deal with the production of Vion’s new plant-based meat range, ME-AT. The range — set to launch in 2020 — currently includes five different “high-quality” vegan meat products. Bolscher — a meat processing company in the Netherlands — is also launching its own range of vegan and vegetarian products. It admits there isn’t a stable future in only producing traditional meat products.

We’ve written recently about how American meat industries are hedging their bets on these trends and buying up many of the local plant-based meat companies.  Now if we could just get more people and the government to recognize this trend, and start demanding and subsidizing plant-based foods instead of animal products, the costs would come down and the change could really accelerate!