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Tyson, America's largest meat producer, sinks its teeth into fake meat

  • Tyson Foods on Thursday announced its first line of plant-based and blended meat products.
  • Tyson had been eyeing the meatless market for years, notably investing in Beyond Meat in 2016. 
  • The largest U.S. meat producer still holds investments in lab-grown meat companies Memphis Meats and Future Meat Technologies.  

Tyson Foods, an early investor in Beyond Meat, on Thursday announced its first line of plant-based and blended meat products, marking the most formidable competitor so far to enter the fast-growing alternative meat market.

The food giant, the largest meat producer in the U.S., will start selling plant-based nuggets starting this summer and blended burgers made with beef and plants in the fall. As part of its new "Raised & Rooted" brand, both products are based on pea protein isolate, which is also the key ingredient in Beyond Meat's products.

Under its existing Aidells brand, Tyson is also launching a sausage and meatballs product made with chicken and plants, including chickpeas and black beans.

Tyson had been monitoring the alternative meat market for years and in 2016 invested in Beyond Meat. But Tyson sold its 5% stake in the company ahead of Beyond Meat's successful initial public offering last month to focus on developing its own plant-based products.

Tyson still holds investments in lab-grown meat companies Memphis Meats and Future Meat Technologies, as well as in mushroom-based protein company MycoTechnology.

Meat-alternative purveyor Beyond Meat sizzles in market debut

Beyond Meat did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Tyson's entry into the meatless market is the latest in a burgeoning food sector that, along with Beyond Meat, includes startup Impossible Foods and industry stalwart Perdue Foods, which on Wednesday launched a new line of plant-based chicken nuggets.

Tyson, with a large industry footprint, will be powerful competitor. The meat producer reported $40 billion in sales in its 2018 fiscal year, compared with Beyond Meat's forecast of $210 million in sales this year. Tyson also operates 50 facilities just to process chicken, while Impossible Foods has just one factory in Silicon Valley.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.