Futures File: Big bets on fake meat

Walt and Alex Breitinger

The line between carnivores and vegetarians is getting blurred as scientists continue expanding on meat substitutes. From plant-based burgers that “bleed” to lab-grown meat, more alternatives are appearing on grocery shelves and on menus. The trend was underscored this week by a record-breaking initial public offering (IPO) by plant-based burger producer Beyond Meat.

For Midwestern grain and livestock producers, the prospect of Americans shifting their diets could be a daunting prospect. But so far, adoption by consumers is still limited, with less than 10% of consumers adopting a fully vegetarian or vegan diet.

However, agribusiness giants like Tyson and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), investors like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, and fast food chains like Burger King and Carl’s Jr. are making investments in the products, betting that more consumers will adopt the products as prices drop and quality increases.

For now, most of the focus within agricultural markets is on oversupply and a lack of a trade deal with China, which is keeping grain and meat prices depressed. As of midday Friday, cattle and soybeans were trading at a seven-month low at $1.14 per pound and $8.30 per bushel, respectively.

Unemployment to 49-Year Low

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its newest monthly estimates on the U.S. employment situation, showing glowing figures. Unemployment stands at 3.6%, a 49-year low, and the economy created 263,000 new jobs last month, more than expected.

Despite these rosy figures, workers’ wages are barely rising, up only 0.2% in the last month, less than expected. Anemic wage growth and low inflation continue to signal that the economy is not heating up, and recent comments from the Federal Reserve suggest that they are concerned by this as well. The Fed is supposed to target 2% inflation, and to hit its target, it may have to lower interest rates back down from their current decade-high levels.

News of a generally strong economy and potential for lower interest rates kept stock prices strong this week, with most of the major U.S. indices trading near all-time highs on Friday.

Opinions are solely the writers’. Walt & Alex Breitinger are commodity futures brokers in Valparaiso, Ind. They can be reached at (800) 411-3888 or www.indianafutures.com. This is not a solicitation of any order to buy or sell any market.

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