Before he was an aspiring politician, Gov. Jared Polis was an entrepreneur.
Experience running a business certainly has value in forming policy — Polis can speak with authority, for example, about how health-care costs can hamper business expansion or whether tax incentives provide a good return on investment. But his entrepreneurial instincts can also get him in trouble.
Entrepreneurs spot — or sometimes create — demand in the marketplace. The emergence of plant-based proteins — think Beyond Meat or Impossible Food products — apparently got the governor thinking about how Colorado's agricultural producers could take advantage of a new niche in the marketplace.
Munching on an Impossible Whopper last month, the governor told Joey Bunch of Colorado Politics that adapting to a changing marketplace is critical. Rachel Gabel, a reporter for the Fence Post, then chronicled the response from Colorado cattle producers. It wasn't pretty.
State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg called the governor's observation a poke in the eye of the state's largest economic driver in the agricultural sector — beef.
But Polis isn't wrong to point out the obvious — that plant-based or lab-grown "meat" is gaining a toe-hold as a rival to ranch-raised and corn- or soybean-finished beef. Consumers will ultimately decide if they prefer a meat-like product over the real thing, regardless of what the governor thinks.
He was simply acknowledging that disruption happens all the time in nearly every industry. Those who anticipate a change in consumer demand are poised to benefit. "Today's Walmart is tomorrow's Sears," he told Bunch.
While the governor probably didn't anticipate accusations of "picking winners and losers," his acknowledgment of a wrinkle in the marketplace is certainly timely.
The market for meat substitutes is expected to hit $2.5 billion by 2023, according to Euromonitor estimates reported by CNBC last week.
Meat substitutes appeal to consumers concerned about a food product's "foodprint," or its impact on the environment. They're not necessarily healthier. For example, Alissa Rumsey, a registered dietitian, told CNBC in July: "They're totally fine to eat, but there's no need to replace your beef burger if you don't enjoy these," Rumsey said, adding that both plant-based burgers and traditional beef burgers have the same amount of sodium and saturated fat.
Plus, plant-based burgers and chicken strips are highly processed. But for people who like meat, but don't like the idea of slaughtering animals, these products appeal to their conscience. Other consumers are wowed by these products' smaller environmental footprint.
In their book, "Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America's Health, Economy, Politics, Culture and Environment, authors Denis Hayes and Gail Boyer Hays provide a rough rule of thumb: eating a pound of beef has a somewhat greater climate impact than burning a gallon of gasoline.
This is the kind of information that is going to sway American consumers — not the governor's ruminations on market forces.
For now, put us down for a porterhouse.