The company has taken a 5 percent ownership stake.

Beyond Meat Burger
Credit: © Beyond Meat

When you think Tyson Foods—the prolific producers of chicken, pork, and beef products—the word 'vegan' is the last thing that comes to mind. However, the brand's new investment in an up-and-coming, animal-friendly startup might change that. This week, the company announced that it had taken a 5 percent ownership stake in Beyond Meat, a buzzy meat alternative company that recently caught the eye of a bevy of high-profile investors.

The California-based startup, whose plant-based, vegan burger patty sold out in just one hour during its first release in a select number of Whole Foods stores, has garnered attention from carnivores and herbivores alike for its incredible resemblance to real meat. The patties have quickly grown a fan following.

With such tremendous buzz has come big investments from the likes of Bill Gates, The Humane Society of the United States, and the venture-capital arm of General Mills, Fortune reports. Now Tyson, a brand beloved by meat eaters everywhere, is also getting in on the plant-based action with its own stake in the company.

Beyond Meat founder and CEO Ethan Brown issued a statement on the acquisition, saying, "This investment by Tyson Foods underscores the growing market for plant protein. I'm pleased to welcome Tyson as an investor and look forward to leveraging this support to broaden availability of plant protein choices to consumers."

The high-profile investment in the niche startup reflects a shift in the food industry as a whole towards plant-based brands and products. Earlier this year, Danone brand purchased plant-based dairy company WhiteWave Foods for $10.4 billion, illustrating this move towards the more animal- and environmentally-friendly. Though Tyson's stake in Beyond Meat pales in comparison to their $7.7 billion purchase of Hillshire Brands, a competing meat company, their stake in this vegan meat alternative could introduce plant-based protein to its largest audience ever.