Plant-based turkey could reach plates by next Thanksgiving

Alternative turkey meat could be the main course of Thanksgiving 2020 as more plant-based proteins go mainstream.

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Alternative turkey meat could be the main course of Thanksgiving 2020 as more plant-based proteins go mainstream.

Plant-based protein products have come a long way since the first widespread vegan option for holiday meals: the Tofurky. The tofu-based product launched in the mid-90s, selling over five million units. While popular, the option lacked the flavor of meat.

Today, consumers who purchase plant-based proteins are interested in products that realistically mimic the taste and texture of real meat. Although companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have come a long way towards creating successful beef alternatives, there are currently no plant-based turkey products that taste like the real thing.

What’s in the pipeline?

Traditional and plant-based protein producers are hard at work on turkey alternatives that look, feel and taste like real meat.

“Don't be surprised if more protein options find their way onto future Thanksgiving tables,” a Tyson spokeswoman told The New York Times. “We are looking at options across protein forms. We aren't sharing future product roll out dates at this time.”

Limited tests of plant-based turkey options are planned for next year, Butterball says. Additionally, Perdue Farms has “something in the pipeline.”

Popular meat alternative manufacturer Impossible Foods says a turkey alternative is a long-term goal for the company. Beyond Meats currently has no plans to develop plant-based turkey products, but is encouraging consumers to integrate plant-based beef and sausage products into Thanksgiving recipes.

One day, consumers may be able to purchase cultured meat grown on a “bone scaffolding,” Bistro In Vitro says, a project that brought together chefs to imagine the future of lab-grown meat. The product, cheekily called “Bone Pickers,” would better model the satisfying experience of eating meat over what is currently available.

More than 219 million turkeys were eaten by U.S. consumers in 2016, the National Turkey Federation estimates.

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