As a devout carnivore, I loved eating meat. Pork, beef, veal, bison, ostrich, chicken, turkey, boar, you name it; it’s in my tummy. I am not alone. According to USDA statistics, the average American will consume over 217 pounds of meat in 2019.
All this meat has serious implications for the planet. To maintain a cost-efficient business model, most meat farmers run a business that 1) reduces soil fertility thanks in part to agricultural practices like overgrazing, pesticide, and fertilizer use, and erosion, 2) implants growth hormones and other chemicals into livestock, and 3) creates a lot of greenhouse gas emissions via methane gas. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, livestock accounts for 14.5 percent of annual worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. This was especially surprising to me considering other industries like chemical manufacturing and construction.
With all of the emissions, the livestock industry consumes, avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce environmental impact via greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, pesticide, and antibiotic use, and a range of other issues.
As an avid meat eater, I, like the average person cannot even begin to think of completely giving up an amazing food source. The Beyond Burger solves this issue. With recent technology, the meatless burger, sausages, and patties are aimed at hard-core meat-eaters for a smooth transition.
As far as food goes, I wholeheartedly recommend the Beyond Meat Burgers as the perfect post-workout snack. They have an amazing flavor and texture that’s unlike any tofu or gluten-based products that I’ve eaten. The main downside is the price – they are not cheap compared to other meat alternatives – and appear to be out of reach for most middle to low-income households to have on a regular basis.
As Beyond Meat grows past a niche startup into a bigger player in the protein space in the future, it would also be prudent for the company to do more independent, high-quality sustainability reports to appear as a better comparison to consumers compared to traditional meat companies.
What I really loved about Beyond Meat as a brand was how transparent the company was with regard to the ingredients. Unlike other brands like Tyson or Trader Joe where the ingredients are much harder to find, Beyond Meat proudly displays the full list of ingredients on its website in an easy-to-read manner.
According to their website, Beyond Meat’s burger is made from a variety of plants that are rich in protein ranging from mung beans, rice, fava beans, and the main ingredient, peas. As someone who goes to the gym and works out a lot, this immediately addressed one of my primary concerns with buying this kind of product: the lack of protein that normal meat would provide.
According to Health Essentials beans might actually be healthier for you in the sense that while one serving of beans (½ cup of cooked beans) provide the same amount of protein (seven grams) as one ounce of meat, beans keep your body fitter because they have more fiber and are rich in antioxidants, unlike regular meat.
Aside from the main ingredient, Beyond Burgers also contains cocoa butter and coconut oil for fat, Potato Starch and Methylcellulose (plant fiber derivative) for carbs, and apple/beet juice extract for flavors. All in all the ingredients are simple, made from plants, soy-free, gluten-free, contain no GMOs or hormones, and possess no antibiotics or cholesterol.
The main ingredient pea is far more sustainable than beef. Nevertheless, I would have liked to see evidence that sustainable farming practices are used with the claimed chemical-free practice. It would have been great to see Beyond Meat using its leverage to encourage suppliers to fully minimize pesticide usage.
Most of these ingredients are grown in Canada and the US but coconut oil is grown from Malaysia and Indonesia. Compared to a competing product like palm oil, coconut oil does not require heavy land use, i.e. no deforestation. However, Beyond Meat does not carry fair trade certification for its coconut and canola oil meaning it's not as transparent with regards to how said oil is extracted. Furthermore, one must also consider several tons of transportation emissions involved with shipping across international borders for the product as opposed to shipping domestically.
With regards to calories (an important consideration for anyone trying out a new food style), the bad news is that it’s not as healthy as eating unprocessed vegetables and beans. The plant-based Beyond Famous Star burger with cheese at Carl’s Jr.’s is 710 calories, 40 grams of fat, and 30 grams of protein. The Famous Star burger with cheese is 670 calories, 37 grams of fat, and 28 grams of protein. For those watching their salt intake, the Beyond Famous Star is worse, with 1,550 milligrams of salt compared with 1,210 for its meat counter.
Unlike the mega factories most meat producers possess, the process by which Beyond Meat makes its products is relatively simple. Much like the transparent list of ingredients, Beyond Meat outlines the process on its website. All Beyond Meat does it heat, cool, pressure, and mix the ingredients without adding any chemicals into the mix.
A lot of this production occurs in their recent asset acquisition: a new headquarters facility right in the middle of El Segundo, California. Unlike many factories I’ve been to with a lot of carbon waste emissions and toxic chemicals, this 300,000 square foot factory is state-of-the-art, and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.
Being LEED certified means that it is part of a building rating system that deems it highly efficient and sustainable, complete with ample outdoor space, fitness centers, and interior living rooms for employees. Aside from production, the facility also includes research centers that deploy artificial intelligence and machine learning to research and develop new plant meat products.
In terms of packaging, the Beyond Burger is quite minimalistic. It only consists of a cardboard tray covered with a thin layer of polyethylene film. However, while this is minimal it could still be improved upon with post-consumer recycled polypropylene instead.
Established in 2009 by Ethan Browe, Beyond Meat Inc. is a Los- Angeles-based company that produces plant-based meat substitutes. Beyond Meat is one of the two biggest plant-based product companies and the only one that is public, founded with the mission of encouraging a shift from animal to plant-based meat. According to their website, they believe that this would be a better way to feed future generations, improve human health, reduce global warming, and enable animal welfare.
As proof of this mission, Beyond Meat points to a 2018 report the company commissioned along with the University of Michigan.
The findings: Beyond Burger generated 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, required 46 percent less energy, and required 99% less water than the beef burger. On the surface, this looks like a star student for sustainability but a bigger question is whether the assessment was even fair. The fact that it’s commissioned by Beyond Meat is a little suspicious for me. Much like the Evian report claiming you need to drink 8 glasses of water a day, this could simply be a biased marketing ploy to attract consumers. I would prefer it if it was an independent study by someone other than the one who can profit from it.
Plus, according to an analysis by Trucost, a part of S&P Global Market Intelligence, Beyond Meat is lacking in environmental impact disclosures when compared to conventional meat giants Hormel and Tyson Foods. The analysis, which looks at company reporting and environmental impact disclosure, gave livestock giant Tyson 98/100 and Beyond Meat 0/100. This does not mean the company itself is bad but that its reporting/accountability needs more transparency.
Another thing to consider how the product conforms to Jewish and Muslim religious laws by being meat-free. As someone who lived in a Muslim religious community growing up, a lot of my friends were more knowledgeable than I in healthy eating and living. What makes Beyond Meat unique is its ability to bridge global cultures by expanding access to meat alternatives to as many people as possible. Already, it does this by achieving kosher certification, meaning it follows Jewish dietary rules