This week US Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) appeared on Fox and Friends to discuss the meat supply chain debacle. During the interview, there were a few words mentioned you don’t hear often in primetime coronavirus news: One was “vegan” and the others were “Impossible Burger.”

“I guess we’ll have to go a little vegan, right?” Florida’s senior Senator quipped when talking about the meat shortages.

“Unlike other supply chain issues, this has nothing to do with anyone overseas. This has to do with how many people can you make work inside one of these processing plants — they’re all very close to each other and there’s a public health risk. So there’s been disruptions there,” Rubio noted. “I know people are working hard to get that resolved.”

As meat processing plants have been shut down amid rampant coronavirus spread within the industry with thousands stricken and dozens of workers having died, the processing plants have been on the front lines of whether workers can be forced back to their jobs, something the plants' worker union has fought. Meanwhile a shortage of animal protein has ensued.

This in turn has brought much-needed attention to the grim realities of modern-day industrial animal agriculture and the dire need to rethink the way we see our food supply.  Many people are turning to eating more fish, or plant-based proteins. The consideration that alternative proteins just might actually be a safer and more sustainable food source is in the news. However, if you’ve been listening or reading mainstream media reports, the conversation rarely includes a mention -- by a US Senator -- of alternative meats, plant-based foods or "going vegan," even a little. But on Fox and Friends, there was a glimmer of an idea that the discussion might be shifting.

Issues raised during the meat shortage in a lawsuit filed against the USDA by the Human Society are that regulators are allowing plants to use a process that speeds up the slaughter process, which could lead to animals still being alive when they are dipped into boiling water to soften their skin and remove the hair. This acceleration could also increase the possibility that fecal matter and other unsavory parts could enter the meat supply, according to a report issued by PETA, citing a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector Jill Mauer.

With the shortage of the meat supply, plus the atrocities of farmers having to dump milk and eggs (since demand has dried up), now, finally, there is a forced discussion about both animal welfare and alternative plant-based proteins. One of the Fox and Friends hosts quipped this in response to Senator Rubio's comments: “Or, the Impossible Burger is going to be the only possible thing you can have.” He may not have realized that this is a reality that is starting to make sense.

Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, two leaders in the plant-based meat alternative space, report surges in sales they attribute to a coronavirus-inflicted beef and pork shortage. Beyond Meat says it saw a 141 percent increase in net revenues this year compared the same period last year, according to The Hill. Impossible Foods said it’s currently adding its product to 777 retail locations in California, Nevada and the Chicago area. And, Americans in general are eating more plant-based foods while on pandemic lockdown according to new research

What coronavirus has done is forced a spotlight on the exploitative nature of factory farming—both for animals and the humans who work there. Now, the mainstream is being forced to reckon with the grim reality of where their bacon comes from. The good news is, you don’t need animal meat to find plenty of affordable and delicious alternatives that await you. 

Top 10 Sources of Plant-Based Protein According to a Nutritionist

More From The Beet