The U.S. meat processing industry alone employs nearly half a million people, making it the top-ranked manufacturing industry by sheer numbers of workers employed. With the sales of plant-based milk and meat alternatives made of peas and other plant ingredients on the rise, farmers worldwide have started shifting from raising livestock to growing crops to support this shift.

Now, plant-based meat makers such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are seeing a trend in which farmers move away from animal agriculture in favor of growing oats, peas, soybean, and other crops that will be needed to sustain this consumer trend. With advancements in food technology, Impossible CEO Pat Brown is seeking to help end animal farming by 2035. And the sentiment is reflected in consumer behavior.

The total market for plant-based meat and non-dairy milks and cheeses as well as other popular vegan products is projected to reach $22 billion by 2025, undercutting the major meat and dairy industries worldwide. Other reports have noted that the popularity of plant-based milk could be directly tied to the decline in cow’s milk consumption. Today, the BBC published an article that detailed meat and dairy farmers who decided to shift to plant-based agriculture, citing environmental, animal welfare, and health reasons.

Farmers Adopting Plant-Based Agriculture

The BBC article featured an ex-dairy farmer Laurence Candy, who lost his herd to bovine tuberculosis. The event motivated him to leave livestock behind, claiming that he did not want to take part in the sweeping death caused by these conditions.

"It made me wonder if we can justify the industrial slaughter of sentient beings," Candy said. "As a society, we have to question this."

With the help of the Scottish organization Farmers For Stock-Free Farming (FFSFF), Candy is transitioning his agricultural facilities to produce exclusively plant-based products. By teaming up with FFSFF, Candy is now producing wheat, oat, barley, and broad beans through a “veganic production” – a sustainable approach that also prohibits manure. He is also working with the International Biocyclic Vegan Network to fully adopt these veganic practices.

"It allows for two years to transition out of a livestock enterprise and establish suitable alternatives," he said. "This approach enables the farmer to have a suitable timescale to develop their business plans, without a financial impact. I'm trying to add value. There are currently very few farmers growing veganically, but obviously, veganism is a growing trend in his country."

Candy is not alone, but these plant-based farmers have received plenty of feedback. Canadian farmer Mark Lanigan told the BBC that when he transitioned to vegan farming practices his neighbors stopped talking to him. Noting that the transition was very quick and inspired by animal welfare, he now operates an animal sanctuary instead, growing radishes, cabbages, and beets as well.

This trend is not surprising, because nearly half of British consumers have started limiting meat consumption. Consumers increasingly look for sustainable food options. Approximately 55 percent of shoppers keep sustainability in mind when grocery shopping.

Associate professor at the Royal Agricultural University Dr. Nicola Cannon revealed that dairy and meat farmers have reason to consider plant-based systems.

"The farming sector, especially the dairy industry, is struggling to meet the labor requirements at the moment, and what with the meat sector's aging agricultural population, the crop sector is generally less intensive," Cannon told BBC. "They're [also] being driven to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It's difficult for the livestock sector as they're burping and farting methane... it might make people think of moving to a simpler system and a plant-based system, where they've got more control of emissions.”

A Toolkit for Vegan Farming

Within the United States, Miyoko’s Creamery – the famous vegan dairy company run by Miyoko Schinner – released a farmer toolkit through its Dairy Farm Transition Program. Teaming up with Mercy for Animal (MFA) and Animal Outlook (AO), Miyoko’s is working to provide the resources to help dairy farmers maintain their farms and protect the environment. The program will help farmers drop their dependence on animal agriculture.

The pressure to adopt plant-based practices is growing rapidly across the globe. This May, Compassion in World Farming delivered a petition urging world leaders to stop animal farming and transition to plant-based practice. The petition was delivered to the leaders of Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Canada, China, the EU, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States on May 5.

With meat production responsible for 57 percent of the food industry’s deadly greenhouse gas emissions, it is becoming more urgent for world leaders to enact legislation to protect the planet. The petition notes that 86 billion animals are farmed every day and transitioning to a plant-based agriculture industry could significantly reduce strains on farmers, the environment, and consumer health.

For more plant-based happenings, visit The Beet's News articles.

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