On a rainy September morning, a pair of cattle ranchers browsed the refrigerated meat cases at a Walmart Inc. store in Mandan, N.D., snapping cellphone photos of an unwelcome invader among the shrink-wrapped ground beef: Beyond Meat Inc. patties, made from pea protein and coconut oil. After a separate check at a nearby local supermarket, the ranchers headed to the North Dakota Department of Health. They showed officials the photos and warned of food-safety risks from mixing plant burgers with the traditional beef kind.
Their message: Meatless burgers don’t belong on beef’s turf.
The impromptu inspection by the ranchers—one of whom was Kenny Graner, president of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association—is just one front in a growing war against their plant-based rivals. Cattle ranchers and their allies are pushing regulators to scrutinize alternative meat-makers, recruiting food scientists to test plant-based products for potential health risks, and ramping up counter campaigns to highlight beef’s nutritional benefits while comparing their rivals to dog food.