How meat producers are trying to avoid becoming like dairy farmers competing with nut ‘milks’

At 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night last May, Fancy Radish, a vegetarian restaurant in Washington’s H Street corridor, was hopping. A willowy 20-something dressed in a flowing jumpsuit stood by the door chatting with two asparagus-thin friends in off-the-shoulder tops. So it was easy to spot Kevin Kester, then the president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, in his light brown cowboy hat and a gold, steer-shaped pin emblazoned with the stars and stripes on the lapel of his blazer. (The hat, I later learned, is 100 percent beaver and was custom-made in honor of his tenure by Greeley Hat Works in Colorado; it would retail for about $1,000.) For the beef industry’s top lobbyist, trips to Washington often involved dinners at restaurants like the Capital Grille, Mastro’s, Ruth’s Chris or Fogo de Chão, where he usually ordered a porterhouse because, he said, “it has both the New York strip and the filet. And it’s a very large steak.”

I’d invited him here to see how he would fare at a restaurant that prides itself on vegetarian “charcuterie.” But I quickly learned that Kester has no beef with vegetarians. In fact, he enjoys many a vegetable himself: “Avocado, yes. Beets, yes. Radishes, yes,” he said as he scanned the menu. By the time he had drained his pineapple-pandan soda and dutifully swallowed part of the last course, an avocado topped with pickled cauliflower, I’d learned that what worried him — and what brought him to Washington often — was “fake” meat.

By fake, Kester meant the plant-based burgers from Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, which have elbowed their way into grocery-store meat cases next to the sirloins and ground round. In January, Impossible Foods, which is backed by Bill Gates, announced that it is developing a plant-based “steak” that bleeds. Even more worrisome is the much-ballyhooed, but not yet commercially available, “lab” or “cultured” meat, cultivated from animal cells without raising or slaughtering an animal.

Read more of this Washington Post article by Jane Block by clicking here.

Sign up now to receive early access to RTP content and exclusive materials available ONLY to our subscribers.