Meat is delicious. Nobody said it wasn't (well, almost nobody). But it's also wreaking havoc on earth's environment, screwing with human health, and leading to the violent deaths of billions of animals a year. Raising meat for food is problematic, at best.
Lucky for everyone, there are innovative companies working to make even better versions of the real thing, so carnivores can have their cows and eat them too.
Leading the charge is Beyond Meat (you may have seem them on The Today Show? Ellen? Good Morning America?). We spoke to CEO Ethan Brown on the company's new Beast Burger, how plants make better meat than, well, meat, and MLB players eating plants.
Brown's interest in alternatives to meat started as a youngster. He spent ample time on his dad's hobby farm, and Brown couldn't help but recognize that their family dogs got the royal treatment while the farm's resident cows had an entirely different lifestyle.
"The cows were not treated poorly but they were definitely considered different. They were production units. I just couldn't understand the difference -- genetically they're pretty similar, they look pretty similar, there are all these similarities between those animals," Brown says. "I thought it was sort of strange that one would be this beast of burden and one would have all these luxuries."
In his late 20s, he went vegan and never looked back. But he missed the taste of meat (fried chicken and steak in particular, he recounts). So, in 2009, Beyond Meat was born to meet the need for a sustainable food source and create a palatable alternative for people who dig that meaty flavor.
Their first product lines, chicken-free strips and beef-free crumbles, have been garnering national attention for awhile. And their newest creation, The Beast Burger, is scheduled to hit the shelves of Whole Foods by February (or potentially sooner, if stores opt into selling it in their prepared foods case).
"It sizzles like a burger, it sweats like a burger and it has fat in it, healthy fat, so it satiates you," says Brown.
Packed full of nutrients and with a familiar mouthfeel, it's designed to satisfy burger cravings while offering a healthier, more humane, and more environmentally friendly alternative to the real deal, says Brown.
"The thought is, we know the architecture of meat, we understand it, we study it relentlessly. Those things are not exclusive to the animal kingdom -- they're in the plant kingdom as well. So we're putting them together in the same structure."
The company wants their products to be thought of as meat; not fake meat or a meat substitute: meat -- just without any animal involvement. Basically, the company's team of bio-chemists and food experts spend their time poring through plants until they find components that can replicate the five elements of meat: amino acids, lipids, water, minerals and carbohydrates.
Then, they take it up a notch.
"If we're going to all this trouble to recreate meat from plants, let's improve it," Brown says.
It has more protein and iron than beef, more omega-3s than salmon, and it's gluten-free, cholesterol-free and infused with nutrients to help athletes recover. The formula was developed with the help of noted triathlete Brendan Brazier.
The burger was already taste-tested in the New York Mets dugout, and scored some positive reviews.
For the rest of us, we have to wait until January or February (hopefully October, if Florida Whole Foods get on board, hint, hint) to take a bite of the meaty goodness.
So what's ahead for Beyond Meat? Plant proteins ad infinitum.
"We're not going to quit until you put a raw chicken breast next to our product and can't tell the difference," says Brown. "Our job is to make meat from plants and do it as effectively as possible."