November 8, 2016
Tyson Foods,* the largest meat producer in the United States, recently took a stake in the plant-based protein company, Beyond Meat.* The investment by Tyson at the outset may seem modest, but when you consider that the company fills two out of five American dinner plates with beef, chicken, and pork, the investment is believed to be substantial.
More than two months before Tyson’s announcement, Green Century Capital Management submitted a shareholder proposal requesting that the company disclose risks associated with the growing demand for plant-based protein stemming from consumers’ concerns about animal welfare, the environment and public health. Shortly after the Beyond Meat announcement, we withdrew the proposal, which was covered extensively in the media including Forbes and Salon.
When people consider food and sustainability, they often think about how it is produced. Is it locally sourced? Does it contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? Is it organic? These are all important questions, but it’s equally important to consider what we eat.
The production of beef, chicken, and pork is considerably more resource intensive than plant-based protein alternatives, such as beans and peas. Animal protein utilizes more land and water and creates more emissions. In fact, beef requires 20 times more land use and emits 20 times more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of edible protein than plant-based protein crops.
Beyond the environmental benefits of adopting plant-based alternatives, it simply can make business sense. China, for instance, recently announced plans to cut meat consumption in half and major companies like Unilever,* Kraft Heinz,* and General Mills* are purchasing and building plant-based brands.
We are pleased to see that Tyson is responsive to investor concern on this issue and has become an early mover in the industry to create a more sustainable food system.
Green Century Capital Management
*As of September 30, 2016, the holdings of the Green Century International Index Fund are valued at cost. As of the same date, Unilever comprised 0.00%, 0.93%, and 4.36%, The Kraft Heinz Company comprised 0.69%, 0.00%, and 0.00%, and General Mills, Inc. comprised 0.48%, 0.01%, and 0.00% of the Green Century Equity Fund, Green Century Balanced Fund, and Green Century International Index Fund, respectively. Other securities mentioned were not held in the portfolios of the Green Century Funds as of September 30, 2016. References to specific securities, which will change due to ongoing management of the Funds, should not be construed as a recommendation by the Funds, their administrator, or their distributor.
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