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Get into the Alternative Protein Game

A few weeks ago, Peter and I were planning out future episodes of The Grower and The Economist. He mentioned alternative proteins, I was intrigued and a little confused. This came up because meatpackers were in the news a lot for COVID-19 related closures and grocery store shelves were bare. With these thoughts in mind, my mind immediately jumped to alternative proteins, flashy products like Beyond Burger and Impossible Meat. I wasn't sure how these options fit into our podcast and I was excited to find out.

Turns out Peter was talking about high protein plants. Not peas and soybeans that would be processed into a fake meat product, but vegetables that are higher in protein that growers could grow and market as high protein crops. Brilliant. There were so many reasons I thought this was a great topic for #thegate.

Protein = Meat

Generally, Americans like high protein diets. It's been a trend since the 1990s. For most of them, high protein means high meat or high dairy diets. People looking to increase the protein in their diets increase their consumption of animal proteins. Vegetarians are often asked about how they will get protein in their diets. Are they eating enough beans? Beans and meats are not the only places to get protein.

It's possible that the current meat disruptions will force consumers to learn more about the nutrients in their food. It's an important health lesson to understand.

Did you know that brassicas, leafy greens, and full-season crops like sweet corn, potatoes, peas, and asparagus all contain high levels of protein?

Options for Every Grower

If Americans are looking for new protein sources and purchasing food directly from the farm this might be an opportunity for farmers to educate their consumers on high protein crops. This education would hopefully increase demand for these products and sales throughout the spring and summer. The great thing about Peter's list is that no matter what type of farm you have or where you are located it's possible to add these products to your mix.

The full season crops might be harder to squeeze in but is still possible.

It's late-May right now so late-spring crops are just going into the field, so farmers can absolutely make adjustments.

The place where field growers, greenhouse growers, and vertical farmers can all increase their production is with leafy greens, especially those that fit in the brassica family like mustard and kale.

Low-Tech Solution

Growing high-protein vegetables and marketing them directly to consumers is a great solution to the supply chain disruptions that we are currently facing. Consumers are receptive to the messaging and farmers are currently holding the microphone. Having this discussion doesn't require new infrastructure, VC backing, or a farm redesign. It requires a little bit of on-farm diversification and maybe a guest chef or two.

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