For some people, vegetarianism is a no brainer—why gorge on the bloody flesh of a dead animal when you could eat delicious, plant-based foods. For others, the bloody flesh of dead animals sounds bloody delicious.
Regardless of aesthetic and taste issues, there's a strong environmental case to be made for cutting back on our appetite for animal-based agricultural products. And that's why there's been a race going on to create plant-based alternatives to meat that actually look, taste and even bleed like the real thing.
Beyond Meat has been one of the front runners in this race. They claim their Beyond Burger is the world's first plant-based burger that looks, cooks and tastes like fresh ground beef. It's so realistic, in fact, that it's being sold directly at the meat counter at select Whole Foods across the country. Made from a blend of pea protein, canola and coconut oils—with beets added for juiciness and color—the Beyond Burger is 100% vegan, soy and gluten free, and contains 20g of plant protein per serving. As such, it certainly seems well designed to gain a following among the vegetarians who still crave for an occasional medium rare burger.
But what about meat eaters?
Earlier this week, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, Tyson Foods—the largest US meat company by sales—announced that it was acquiring a 5% stake (steak?) in the company. Obviously, this would seem to be a wise insurance policy for a company heavily exposed to investments in animal agriculture. If the world really does get serious about fighting climate change, it seems inevitable that we'll need to either reduce emissions from livestock farming (easier said than done) or reduce the amount of livestock farming that actually goes on.
But how will Beyond Meat's fan base react to a deal with Big Meat? Seth Goldman, executive chairman of Beyond Meat told the Wall Street Journal that the upsides were just too good to pass up:
“We know it’s certainly going to raise eyebrows on all sides. We fully recognize vegans who supported our business may not immediately understand why this makes sense but I think the consumer is evolving, the market is evolving and both companies are committed to producing delicious products.”
It certainly seems like a noteworthy development for the advancement of meat alternatives. Given that it's 45 years since the publication of Diet for a Small Planet, and given that meat consumption appears to be on the rise in the US again, advocates for reducing our dependence on animal agriculture are going to need all the tools they can get their hands on. A burger that's plant based not just palatable to the meat eating masses, but actually sold right alongside their traditional beef, could go a long way toward moving us in the right direction.
CNN certainly seemed reasonably impressed—although they did say it lacks a certain chewiness. Has anyone tried one of these at home?