Is the future of meat in America at stake?

ABC News' Matt Gutman reports on ranchers struggling to make a living as they try to keep up with cheap imported beef and changing consumer habits.
6:29 | 07/16/20

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Transcript for Is the future of meat in America at stake?
The pandemic is only the latest single to the food supply chain environmental concerns in changing consumer habits have. Impact of the farm industry not given rise to new industries like alternative meats. Wanted to take a closer look at the beef industry specifically. How these dramatic shifts could Alter what ends up on our plate are Matt Gutman has this report. None horseback Mike Jones currency is cows and cats on his ranch in. Named already know Arkansas. Considers himself an old score range from five generations before him intended lands and raise capital or. It's my family business. How are spent three days trying to decide okay. Everything she could and every Madison's way to put it all time it's not doubters can do what most fourth bank. It's a life that he months and the Bible by god that I get to my hair builders Everett Aaron. But its stomach hardship Jones in the Stanley safe they're fighting for their minds and votes. We've all slammed in the Paris alternatives loss on its exit told owner friendly industry. He says his son likely won't follow in his footsteps. There just isn't enough money in the business anymore. We're just trying to keep our heads above water and when the pandemic hit the bottom fell out the entire food supply chain was affected. Every plank I came to halt. And the can al-Qaeda backed up from the three yard. Always sell our channel and a three yard operators to tell process faulty use all the process in the grocery stores. No absolutely through the roof these big processors are the ones as Mike the money. Beef wholesale prices hit a record high in April spiking nearly 20%. In just one week. But slaughter houses where workers are often stationed shoulder to shoulder couldn't keep up. They too weren't immune from the virus in April and may alone about 161000. Meatpacking workers were infected with the virus. Nearly 90% of them were racial and ethnic minorities for people like 21 year old Michael who contracted the virus at the Smithfield pork plant in South Dakota. I was struggling silent breeding so hard and getting close throughout the guys who know the job Grady so I kept on moving around. Smithfield South Dakota plant had to temporarily shut down eventually over a thousand of its employees at this plant would become infected. The fix its advised by the CDC. Would later slow production. In all dozens of slaughter houses around the country were temporarily closed due to cope it outbreaks. But over the past six weeks meatpacking facilities have bounced back. That said cal in bull production was up 7% of the week of June 13. As compared to last year but Jones says he hasn't seen that increase in demand because he says he's also competing with imported beef. It's either come from South America authorities cents a pound. And work we're trying to sell ours they even and a nice answer dollar loan Albrecht and even Wheeler eventually going get it where we have no ranch is left here in the US site. You know changing eating habits in a greater awareness of the environmental impact of beef production. Is potentially threatening the single product kills his upper hand. It showed that the crowds coming and it's. In this case soybeans that are brought. Down. We were granted exclusive axis at the possible foods factory in Oakland California. For soybeans are transformed. Into a wall looking and tasting meat. It tastes exactly like a murderer or any other Berber. Meat alternative sales have skyrocketed this year sales were up nearly 250%. Just in the twelve weeks ending on May 23. We are basically making good. Our. Turning would dooms into a product that so closely resembles meet. Requires some modern day alchemy but nothing gets killed and there's no court said the company CEO Pat Brown. That this is a tour you would rarely get in a real meat packing plant in the middle of the pandemic or animals are killed the carcasses being cared. And in butcher. The rise of alternative meat is partly due to meet shortages during the height of the pandemic. And partly because of the greater scrutiny conditions inside slaughterhouses for workers in the animals that according to Pat Brown of impossible foods. He says his customers are. Not just vegetarians. But people more concerned about the environmental impact of beef consumption. If you replace a pound. How to write the with a pound. Impossible do you reduce your greenhouse gas footprint by people went. The average daily commute in the US 36 miles in typical American car. Or the equivalent of the 92 miles flying in a passenger jet. But some critics warned that both impossible and beyond Burger's are heavily processed. General rule what we understand it sounds good to humans on us. I'll announce the overweight humans at all. Oh for processing intensity much less than we then you get the whole foods says it. But for consumers who want to be more conscious of their environmental footprint the meat alternative is awarding. Impossible foods posts that pound for pound its carbon footprint is 89% smaller than that of weak real beef burger. But ranchers say they get a bad rap when it comes to bear impact on the environment so much. The concern about the environment is really not directed at a cattle industry properly. It's easy target because relatively few ranchers as compared to rest the populations. About the ranchers four centuries been stewards of the land. And it had shared for their air land and water. But Pat Brown insists he's not after the ranchers but but you could call the beef industrial complex. You've said yourself beat your goal is to kill the meat industry I would see. Yes and I want to do it. The old fashioned way by fair competition in the free market and basically. Not recapping ranchers but inventing. Better foods. That do a better job of delivering what consumers want. Back on the ranch Jones doesn't see what has been in indelible part of American culture disappearing. Anytime soon. I don't like the generation of rank treasure on about how moderate that Samaranch another ransom. That got me ABC news Los Angeles.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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