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Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road? To Fix America's Hamburger Problem

by Cara Hsiao, 29 March 2024


Crossover Meats launched a delicious and sustainable alternative to climate-destroying beef that isn't plant-based. Will consumers make the switch? 



Michelle Adelman is an unconventional meat industry executive, producing an equally unconventional product. A long-time vegan and advocate for plant-based foods, Adelman left a twenty-five-year career as a high-flying business executive on a mission to reshape the global food system. Her company, Crossover Meats, produces all-natural, sustainable, and delicious beef products, with one unique factor—they’re 60% chicken. By grinding lean chicken and beef with small amounts of beef blood and fat, Crossover produces hamburger blends with half the emissions of a conventional patty. 


Through Crossover, Adelman is tackling a notoriously thorny sustainability problem: America’s insatiable appetite for beef. The United States is the beef capital of the world, producing and consuming more beef than any other nation. In 2022, Americans consumed nearly 60 pounds of beef per capita, totaling 22 billion pounds, at an enormous cost to our planet. 


By far the most polluting protein, producing just 100 grams of beef protein generates nearly 50 kilograms of carbon equivalents (COe). In contrast, producing 100g of chicken protein generates just 6 kilograms of COe, a footprint 8.3 times smaller. Beef’s climate impacts are 

far-reaching. Irrigation of grain for cattle feed is fueling water shortages globally. In the Amazon rainforest, 70% of illegally deforested land has been linked to cattle ranching. 


Consumers, increasingly aware of beef’s negative impacts, have sought out lower-impact alternatives. However, despite initial hype, sales of plant-based meat alternatives like Impossible and Beyond Meats have plateaued. After nearly a decade of development and billions in investment, plant-based alternative meats hold a US market share of just 1.3%. 


Once believed to be the solution to climate-destructive beef production, the scale of plant-based meat consumption remains too small to be impactful. For many, plant-based patties are too processed, costly, or fail to live up to the flavor of authentic meat. For these consumers, Crossover Meats may offer the perfect compromise. 


The genius of Crossover’s recipe lies in its simplicity. By combining lean chicken and beef, Crossover leverages the emissions differential between the two proteins. The resulting product uses 58% less land, produces 54% lower carbon emissions, and requires 29% less water compared to pure beef (Crossover). Adelman describes this feat simply: “Chickens aren’t ruminant animals … they don’t burp and fart their way through life. They’re fast-growing, they use a lot less feed and water, and they have a much better feed to protein conversion,”. 


Crossover delivers the full package to consumers: an all-natural product cheaper and more sustainable than red meat, with the same delicious flavor and texture. Thanks to the lower cost of chicken, the product costs 20% less than ground beef patties, while maintaining lower levels of saturated fats. Crossover’s burgers are currently available through their direct-to-consumer website and in select retailers nationwide, with plans to expand into other formats and distributional channels soon. 


Though the benefits of her product are evident, Adelman’s journey has not been an easy one. Founding Crossover Meats has garnered skepticism from meat eaters and plant-based advocates alike. The inclusion of beef blood—a key ingredient that lends the Crossover hamburgers their intense, beefy, flavor —has alienated some consumers. Some of Adelman’s vegan peers have expressed doubt about the ethical implications of her participation in the meat industry.

 

Still, she remains dedicated to delivering a product that will bridge the gap between the two groups. Adelman implements the ideals and values of the plant-based movement with a pragmatic approach. “I’d be happy if everyone went out and ate a bunch of Impossible and Beyond burgers,” she

shared. But realistically, Adelman knew her target audience wouldn’t make that switch on ideals alone. Her product needed a lower price and a traditional flavor and ingredient list to maximize her impact. 


"Better for you, better for the environment" has been Adelman’s guiding principle. If she can’t win over consumers with their hearts, she’s determined to convince them through their tongues or their wallets. If she is successful, her products could provide a new path toward reducing the climate impact of our global food system. Crossover Meats isn’t just flipping burgers, it’s flipping the narrative on sustainable proteins, one patty at a time. 



Cara Hsiao is a Sophomore at Cornell University studying Applied Economics, with a concentration in business analytics.  She has interests in technology and sustainability, with previous experience interning in food security nonprofit, product management consulting, and in technology startups.

Follow Cara on Instagram and LinkedIn



References 

Eisenhammer, 2020. (2020, August 28). A rancher tried to ensure he doesn’t deforest the Amazon. He failed. Reuters

https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/brazil-deforestation-cattle/ Gerretsen, I. (2022, December 15). What is the lowest-carbon protein? BBC; BBC. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20221214-what-is-the-lowest-carbon-protein Just, B. (2024, March 13). Crossover Meats brings out blended offerings | MEAT+POULTRY. https://www.meatpoultry.com/articles/29891-crossover-meats-brings-out-blended-offerings Lafray, D. (2024, March 1). Michelle adelman, founder of crossover meats, introduces a delicious and sustainable alternative that isn’t plant-based. International Business Times. https://www.ibtimes.com/michelle-adelman-founder-crossover-meats-introduces-delicious-susta inable-alternative-that 

Michelle Adelman, an entrepreneur in Botswana building a powerful business to find innovative solutions to food security in Africa. (2019, July 14). Lionesses of Africa. 

USDA. (2024, February 1). Projected meat consumption in U.S. by type 2033. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/189222/average-meat-consumption-in-the-us-by-sort/


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