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Shortage of Yellow Peas Impeding Expansion of Vegetable-Based Meat Substitute


The rapid rise in production of plant-based meat substitutes has created a demand for pea protein.  Beyond Meat incorporates protein extracted from yellow peas in its formula and the Company is now experiencing supply problems.


According to USDA, 1.1 million acres were planted to produce peas, a 28 percent increase over the previous year.  The laws of supply and demand will result in an increase in the value of dried peas which can be cultivated in the same areas as soybeans.  Currently in the U.S. in North Dakota and Montana produce 80 percent of dried peas and wide scale extension to soybean-producing states is unlikely.  Currently most of the dry pea production is non-GM but not as yet certified organic.  Should vegetable protein manufacturers require organic peas, expansion of output could be delayed for three years.


It remains to be seen whether the lofty projections for growth in the vegetable-based meat substitute will conform to commercial reality.  In addition, technology currently dependent on peas may allow substitution of alternative vegetable protein sources.  Any farmer would be faced with a difficult decision to establish organic-compliant acreage to produce organic peas three years hence with the uncertainty relating to acceptability of vegetable-based burgers and ground meat substitutes or the introduction of new vegetable protein sources.