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The fake chicken wars have begun

Chicken is America’s favorite meat. The average citizen chows down on 54.6 pounds of it a year. And yet, to date, plant-based meat startups have mostly invested in duplicating beef and pork. The strategy makes some sense—chicken is widely regarded as healthier than red meat, and it has a fraction of the environmental impact. Through these lenses, chicken didn’t need a plant makeover.

But in the last two years, the plant-based chicken industry has been heating up. And nowhere is that more clear than Beyond Meat’s new product, Beyond Chicken Tenders. The new product isn’t headed to grocery stores, but will go on sale at nearly 400 restaurants including Sarpino’s Pizza, Bad Mutha Clucka, and Jailbird this week, along with cafeterias and stadiums in the future. Featuring 14g of protein and 40% less saturated fat than the average tender, the product is a signpost for the industry: Plant chicken is having a moment.

Beyond Meat has plenty of company, as plant-based chicken is projected to be a roughly $1 billion industry by 2027. From the startup Daring, to Gen Z’s beloved Nuggs, to Lightlife’s (makers of the most popular plant-based hot dogs) new tenders and filets, to Kellogg’s Incogmeato Chik’n (launched in 2021), to the most recent investments of food giant Nestlé, the industry is trying to sell generations of Americans who grew up on chicken nuggets and tenders a plant-based option.

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