To build understanding of the bottlenecks and job opportunities in the farmed animal movement, Animal Advocacy Careers conducted a brief “spot-check” of the job opportunities that were advertised on the websites of 51 different companies working on animal product alternatives, such as cultivated meat and plant-based meat. The results were compared to the findings from additional searches of the currently filled roles at the same organisations. The findings provide weak evidence that cultivated meat companies are struggling to fill engineering, manufacturing, and processing roles whereas plant-based food companies are struggling to fill product handling and manual roles. Some overview statistics about companies working on animal product alternatives were also analysed. One notable finding is that over half of roles are associated with companies based in the United States. Additionally, comparisons were made between the details and requirements of job roles in cultivated meat companies, plant-based food companies, and animal advocacy nonprofits. Opportunities at both plant-based food and cultivated meat companies tend to have higher education and work experience requirements than opportunities in animal advocacy nonprofits and a far smaller proportion of the roles are remote.
In order to decide where to focus its interventions, Animal Advocacy Careers (AAC) needs to understand what the largest bottlenecks are in the farmed animal movement. AAC also needs to understand the characteristics of the job roles that are available in order to inform the advice that we give through our online course, online resources, and one-to-one careers advising calls. Checking to see the characteristics and trends among advertised job opportunities in the movement, and how these compare to currently filled roles, is one way to develop understanding of these issues.
Individuals can contribute to the farmed animal movement by working to produce, improve, and sell new animal product alternatives. These foods can reduce the demand for animal products, thereby reducing the number of animals that are farmed.
We therefore conducted several related searches of currently filled roles and advertised job opportunities at for-profit companies involved in animal product alternatives between August and October 2020. There is no reason to assume that the time periods studied are particularly representative of these organisations’ hiring needs; hence, we should be wary that any surprising findings (especially those based on small numbers of job adverts) may simply be explicable by random variation and small sample sizes.
This spot-check consisted of several different analyses:
An overview analysis of the numbers of staff currently working for various different kinds of for-profit companies involved in animal product alternatives.
A more detailed analysis of the staff currently working at cultivated meat companies.
An analysis of the roles being advertised by cultivated meat companies.
A more detailed analysis of the staff currently working at plant-based food companies.
An analysis of the roles being advertised by plant-based food companies.
Apart from the overview analysis (which draws heavily from The Good Food Institute’s company database), the methodology was very similar to our Effective Animal Advocacy Nonprofits Roles Spot-Check. In the discussion below, comparison is frequently made to the results from that spot-check.
For more detail on the methodology, see the Appendix below.
Results and discussion
How many roles were there for different types of organisations?
From the overview of for-profit companies involved in animal product alternatives, we can do some big-picture comparisons on staff numbers in the various sub-industries.
Table 1: Employee numbers by category of animal product alternatives
Perhaps the most notable finding from this analysis is that cultivated meat companies are much smaller, on average, than plant-based or fermentation companies. Indeed, the largest cultivated meat company focusing on cultivated meat only had 84 listed staff (Memphis Meats), compared to 852 at the largest company focusing on plant-based foods only (Alpro) and 363 focusing on fermentation only (Quorn). This is unsurprising, given that this industry is still in more of a research and development phase and is still growing rapidly, as shown in table 2.
Table 2: Employee numbers by category of animal product alternatives over time, focused on X only companies with 30 or more employees in August 2020
Table 3: Employee numbers by subcategory of animal product alternatives, focusing only on X only companies
Looking at more specific subcategories of animal product alternatives, several findings are worth highlighting:
In the cultivated meat space, companies using business-to-business models (working on bioreactors, cell culture media, or scaffolding and structure) comprise only about 10% of the total staff and are much smaller on average than the companies operating on a lab-to-consumer model.
Plant-based dairy companies employ the majority of staff that work in companies focusing exclusively on plant-based food, with about 1.5 times as many staff as plant-based meat companies. They also tend to be much larger, on average.
Biomass fermentation companies employ the majority of staff that work in companies focusing exclusively on fermentation, with about 2 times as many staff as precision fermentation. They also tend to be twice as large, on average.
Which countries were roles based in?
Table 4: Employee numbers by country (limited to countries with 2% of the total or more)
In the overview of for-profit companies involved in animal product alternatives, companies were identified in 29 different countries. Over half of the staff (53%) worked for companies based in the US and another third (33%) worked for companies based in various European countries. Of those working for companies based in the US, 74% (i.e. 39% of the total) worked for companies based in California.
Looking at a more detailed analysis of current staff at cultivated meat companies, the US was slightly less dominant and a larger proportion of staff were based in the Netherlands and Israel.
How many roles were there for each area of expertise?
Table 5: Comparison of current roles in cultivated meat companies, plant-based food companies, and animal advocacy nonprofits, by area of expertise that the role seems to focus on
Broad comparison between these current roles analyses reveals some interesting trends:
A slightly higher proportion of roles in cultivated meat companies were categorised as having management or leadership roles, perhaps because the organisations are smaller and the results are therefore more heavily dominated by the founding team, whose titles tend to imply management and leadership roles, even if they have relatively few staff to manage directly.
The proportion of staff categorised as having operations, administration, and HR roles in plant-based food companies was roughly twice as high as in either cultivated meat companies or the nonprofits. Again, this may be because those companies tend to be more established than the cultivated meat companies, hence are more focused on usual business operations, rather than on R&D. Similarly, the proportion categorised as having business development, corporate engagement, and sales roles was higher for plant-based food companies (13%) than cultivated meat companies (4%), as was the proportion categorised as having product handling and manual tasks (10% and 2%, respectively).
Indeed, a majority (53%) of staff at cultivated meat companies were categorised as having technical product-focused research roles, compared to only 16% at plant-based food companies.
Despite improvements in engineering, manufacturing, and processing being a key focus of some plant-based meat companies (e.g. Rebellyous Foods), roles of this sort comprise only 3% of roles in plant-based food companies, compared to 15% of roles at cultivated meat companies. Similarly, despite Beyond Meat only comprising 38% of the total current staff identified in the plant-based food analysis, 66% of the combined total of engineering, manufacturing, and processing plus technical product-focused research staff were employed by Beyond Meat. This suggests that there is a much higher focus on R&D and systems improvement at some plant-based companies than others.
Table 6: Comparison of cultivated meat current roles and job opportunities, by area of expertise that the role seems to focus on
If certain types of expertise are undersupplied in the industry, relative to its needs, we would expect that such skillsets would be overrepresented in job adverts for roles at cultivated meat companies:
Difficulties in hiring candidates might result in a higher frequency of job ads if no suitable candidate is found.
Difficulties in retaining staff, once hired, might result in a higher frequency of job ads, since job ads would need to be posted again to replace the departing staff member.
Given the small number of roles that are advertised at any one point, the findings from this analysis constitute only very weak evidence of the existence of particular career and talent bottlenecks, however.
Overall, the proportions of each role type were relatively similar. Notable differences include:
Management or leadership roles seemed to be substantially underrepresented in the advertised job opportunities compared to the current roles (10% compared to 33%), suggesting that cultivated meat companies do not struggle to fill these sorts of roles or retain staff in them. Again, this may reflect the continued dominance of the founding teams.
Engineering, manufacturing, and processing roles seem to be slightly overrepresented in the advertised job opportunities compared to the current roles (24% compared to 15%), suggesting that filling roles that require this sort of expertise or retaining staff in them is difficult for cultivated meat companies.
Roles requiring other technical skills, e.g. software engineers and computational scientists, seem to be more dramatically overrepresented in the advertised job opportunities (10% compared to 1%). In fact, there were more advertised roles than current roles in this category, though this comparison is based on a very small sample size (i.e. we should be less confident that this is a meaningful finding).
An additional (slightly less reliable) analysis was carried out that subdivided the technical product-focused research plus the engineering, manufacturing, and processing roles by their apparent level of seniority. The least senior roles (“technician or assistant”) were slightly overrepresented in the advertised job opportunities compared to the current roles (17% compared to 10%), suggesting that filling more entry-level roles or retaining staff in them is more difficult than for more senior roles.
Table 7: Comparison of plant-based food current roles and job opportunities, by area of expertise that the role seems to focus on
Overall, the proportions of each role type were very similar. The disparities noted for cultivated meat companies were not repeated for plant-based food companies. However, product handling and manual roles seem to be slightly overrepresented in the advertised job opportunities compared to the current roles (20% compared to 10%), suggesting that filling roles that require this sort of expertise or retaining staff in them is difficult for plant-based food companies.
What was the gender balance among current roles?
Table 8: Comparison of the gender balance among current roles in cultivated meat companies, plant-based food companies, and animal advocacy nonprofits, by area of expertise that the role seems to focus on
Overall, women are substantially overrepresented among nonprofit roles and slightly underrepresented among cultivated meat and plant-based food companies. In each type of organisation, women are underrepresented in management or leadership roles relative to their proportion of the total staff in that type of organisation. This is especially so in cultivated meat companies.
What were the requirements like for advertised roles?
Table 9: Comparison of the requirements for job opportunities in cultivated meat companies, plant-based food companies, and animal advocacy nonprofits
Far more opportunities at cultivated meat and plant-based food companies were listed as requiring a bachelor’s degree than in animal advocacy nonprofits (69%, 50%, and 22%, respectively). Opportunities at cultivated meat were listed as requiring postgraduate or professional qualifications more frequently than in plant-based food companies or nonprofits (45%, 9%, and 8%, respectively), presumably due to the higher focus on R&D.
Indeed, at both cultivated meat companies and plant-based food companies, technical product-focused research roles required bachelor’s degrees and graduate or professional qualifications especially frequently (80% and 62% for cultivated meat, 70% and 40% for plant-based foods). The educational requirements for other role types differed between cultivated meat and plant-based food companies.
For cultivated meat companies, all of the technical product-focused research roles that required educational qualifications (i.e. 80% of the total) specified that those qualifications needed to be focused on subjects relating to biology, chemistry, or life sciences. This was also the case for the majority of other role types that specified educational requirements, but was not true in every instance. These findings did not hold for job opportunities at plant-based food companies.
For all three groups of searches, the majority of opportunities stated that one or more years of relevant work experience were needed, with the average required number of years being higher in cultivated meat and plant-based food companies than in nonprofits (3.1, 3.4, and 1.8 years, respectively). In both cultivated meat and plant-based food companies, the average requirements were higher for engineering, manufacturing, and processing roles (3.5 and 4.6 years, respectively), operations, administration, and HR roles (4.2 and 4.1), and management or leadership roles (7.8 and 6.5). They were lower for technical product-focused research (2.6 and 2.6), though this can be explained by the larger proportion of roles requiring PhDs, which can take several years themselves.
Far fewer job opportunities at cultivated meat or plant-based food companies were remote than in nonprofits (2%, 2%, and 48%, respectively). Of course, many of these companies require technical lab work, manufacturing, and product handling, though it is perhaps surprising that so few of the more operational or business-oriented roles were remote.
Where and how were roles advertised?
Table 10: Comparison of the sites where job opportunities in cultivated meat companies, plant-based food companies, and animal advocacy nonprofits were advertised
Though almost all roles at cultivated meat companies and nonprofits were advertised on the organisation’s own websites, this was not the case for the plant-based food companies. LinkedIn was frequently used by the companies.
Given that roles at cultivated meat and plant-based foods companies are sometimes advertised on the Good Food Institute’s job board, 80,000 Hours’ job board, and the Effective Altruism Job Postings Facebook group, we were surprised to find that none of the identified roles at plant-based food companies and only 4 of the roles at cultivated meat companies were posted on any of these sites.
As in the nonprofits spot-check, several organisations used LinkedIn, the Facebook group, and the job boards occasionally but inconsistently; only 4 cultivated meat companies used LinkedIn consistently and no company used the Facebook group or job boards consistently.
Limitations and suggestions for further research
This spot-check relies heavily on LinkedIn but not all individuals use LinkedIn. If some countries or types of staff are systematically underrepresented on LinkedIn, this would bias the results.
It is unclear whether LinkedIn tends to inflate or deflate the number of staff at organisations or in particular role types.
The searches of advertised job opportunities provide only a brief snapshot and are vulnerable to random variation. Ideally, results would be measured over a longer time period. Such research could be combined with the creation and maintenance of a job board that focuses on roles at for-profit companies involved in animal product alternatives. Otherwise, the analysis of advertised opportunities could be repeated at later time points.
An analysis of academic positions that have opportunities for research into animal product alternatives could be useful.
An analysis of the fermentation industry could be useful.
An analysis of the plant-based dairy industry could be useful, albeit low priority.
An analysis that somehow accounts for differences between “X only” and other companies producing animal product alternatives could be useful, albeit low priority.
An analysis that compares roles at companies producing animal product alternatives to other food companies could be useful, albeit low priority.
There are lots of other roles that relate to effective animal advocacy that are not at highly impact-focused nonprofits or at companies producing animal product alternatives. Examples include government and policy roles that affect farmed animals, animal welfare law roles, academic positions that have opportunities for effective animal advocacy research, and high-paying jobs that enable people to donate lots of money to nonprofits. Spot-checks of the roles available in these areas (perhaps evaluated separately) could be useful.
Much of the analysis here depends on subjective categorisations and judgement calls. A partial replication of this methodology using different categories or just by a different individual could be useful, albeit low priority.
The plant-based food for-profit current roles and plant-based food for-profit job opportunities research was carried out by a different researcher (Sami Mubarak) to the rest of the research and analysis (Jamie Harris). Small differences in the categorisation methodology and decision-making could explain some of the observed differences.
Appendix: Description of the methodology
Overview of for-profit companies involved in animal product alternatives
For the first analysis, the company database provided by the Good Food Institute was used as the basis. GFI’s database divides companies into the categories of “Cultivated Meat,” “Plant-Based Meat, Eggs, and Dairy,” and “Fermentation,” and provides additional subcategories. No further companies were identified and added to this list, though some minor edits were made to the database. Data was gathered on the number of staff currently at the company, usually from LinkedIn, with searches being conducted in late August 2020. Where there were 30 or more current staff according to LinkedIn, then the number of staff in the previous two years was also evaluated. Companies were categorised for whether they solely focused on one of GFI’s three categories or not. Companies were marked as not solely focusing on one category if they were listed in multiple categories within the database or if they also produced or sold products that were not intended to replace animal products. Most of the analysis in this report focuses exclusively on those companies that were marked as solely focused on one of the three categories; these companies seemed more likely to be representative of the industry producing animal product alternatives.
Cultivated meat for-profit current roles
All 25 companies from GFI’s company database that were categorised as focusing solely on cultivated meat and that had over five current staff listed on LinkedIn were analysed in more detail via searches of their current staff. 375 staff were identified via searches in late August 2020. A list of 9 types of expertise was developed by modifying the list created for Animal Advocacy Careers’ “effective animal advocacy nonprofit roles spot-check.” After reading the individual’s job title (and sometimes briefly checking any available descriptions of their role), up to 2 areas of expertise were marked as “key” skills required for that role. Up to 2 additional areas of expertise were marked as “important” but secondary. Roles that did not seem like paid roles were excluded. All results (except for the country in which the role was based) were then converted into a numerical format. Most answers were “yes” (1) or “no” (0), but for simplicity of reporting, middle answers such as “optional,” “important,” and “preferred” were coded as 0.5.
Cultivated meat for-profit job opportunities
The same organisations’ websites were also searched for current job openings; 19 organisations had openings publicly visible, for a total of 119 roles (89 if duplicates are excluded). 80,000 Hours’ job board, restricted to the factory farming “problem area,” was also searched, as was GFI’s job board and all the posts on Effective Altruism Job Postings Facebook group within the past three months; for all four sources, results were only added for the 25 pre-specified companies. Roles that did not seem like paid roles and nonspecific open application options were excluded. Several objective characteristics of advertised job opportunities were noted, where they could be identified, such as whether the role was full-time, the salary that was offered, and whether remote work was optional, compulsory, or unavailable. The advertised job opportunities were sorted into the same 9 types of expertise as the currently filled roles. Listed fixed requirements of roles were noted, such as the minimum number of relevant years of experience that were required. Again, results were converted into numerical format.
In order to increase the sample size, two separate searches were conducted; the first in late August 2020, and the second approximately two months later. Our analysis in this report excludes duplicates of adverts for roles that were identified at both time-points, except where otherwise specified.
Plant-based food for-profit current roles
A random sample of 35 companies was selected from the 129 companies on GFI’s company database that were categorised as focusing solely on plant-based and that did not have plant-based dairy as their company type. Companies that focused solely on plant-based dairy were excluded because because the animal suffering involved with dairy seems to be lower than for other animal product types and because the plant-based dairy product category is more established, and therefore seems less interesting from the perspective of pushing the boundaries of plant-based foods. Again, companies that had under five current staff listed on LinkedIn were excluded. The sample was intended to be roughly representative of the spread of employees between larger and smaller companies. The current staff at these companies were analysed via searches of their current staff. 969 staff were identified via searches in September and October 2020. This research was carried out by a different researcher (Sami Mubarak) to the cultivated meat and overview analyses (Jamie Harris). The methodology used was otherwise identical to the methodology used in the “Cultivated meat for-profit current roles” search.
Plant-based food for-profit job opportunities
The same organisations’ websites were also searched for current job openings; 15 organisations had openings publicly visible, for a total of 107 roles. Since the sample size was larger than in the cultivated meat spot-check, only one search was conducted, in September and October 2020. This research was carried out by a different researcher (Sami Mubarak) to the cultivated meat and overview analyses (Jamie Harris). The methodology used was otherwise identical to the methodology used in the “Cultivated meat for-profit job opportunities” search.
 For discussion, here.