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Faux-meat mania may pose risks across U.S. ag

The popularity of Beyond Meat Inc.’s plant-based protein offerings isn’t just a threat for meat producers. Such meat-free alternatives and consumer trends shunning animal protein could also hurt demand at agricultural chemical makers and fertilizer companies, according to Alliance Bernstein.

Nearly 60% of the world’s corn and 90% of the soy goes into animal feed, analyst Gunther Zechmann writes. Bayer AG and Corteva Inc. depend heavily on meat consumption and Evonik Industries and Royal DSM NV have about a third of group sales linked to animal nutrition.

“We see the mid-term risk as modest, but companies need to be planning for how to manage this problem in the long-term,” Zechmann said.

If plant-based meat alternatives’ penetration in the U.S. climbs to 15% by 2028 — from 5% today — that could shave off as much as 6 million acres (7%) of corn demand and 3 million acres (3%) of soy demand at current yields, according to Bernstein estimates. If all developed markets saw 10% growth, it would act to reduce the 10-year compound annual growth rate of corn and soy, Zechmann noted. Given that the Food and Agriculture Organization expects that rate at 1.4%, alternative meats could trim 25 bps from that figure.

“This, while impactful, is hardly a death knell for ag chems on a 10-year view,” he said. “The greater concern lies where growth levels off or declines.”

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