Innovations

UN Sustainable Development Goal

9
Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

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  • Chris Laszlo
    Chris Laszlo The challenge of creating a vegetable burger is not new, but Beyond Meat has created a product that acts like meat and is sold next to the meat burgers in grocery stores. A powerful example of providing a sustainable solution to the harm that arises from...  more
    January 18
  • Megan Buchter
    Megan Buchter What a wonderful innovation! The benefits of this product are so great. I can't wait to try it!
    January 18
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Looking Beyond Beef for the Perfect Burger

Date published: 18 Jan 2017
United States     5 likes   2

Overview

Beyond Meat has redefined the burger with the release of their Beyond Burger; a plant-based patty that sizzles and “bleeds” as you cook it. Unlike most veggie patties that are fully cooked and frozen, the Beyond Burger is raw and refrigerated when purchased. This allows the Beyond Burger to mimic the raw to cooked transition of beef, as well as the taste and texture. The Beyond Burger is a seamless animal protein substitute that offers improved nutrition, reduced environmental impact, and no animal welfare concerns.  

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Innovation

The Beyond Burger is the result of years of research by Beyond Meat’s R&D center, proudly titled “the Manhattan Beach Project”. Ethan Brown, Founder, CEO, and President of Beyond Meat, explained “the lab has the brightest scientists we can recruit from the best universities all over the world.” These individuals have gathered to tackle a lofty goal. They aim not to simply create “a vegetarian alternative” but rather to “use science and innovation to be the first group of people that have separated meat from animals.”  

Most consumers define meat by its origin, e.g. chicken, cow, or pig. Beyond Meat urges consumers to reconsider meat by looking at the composition instead of origin. Ethan explained the five fundamental building blocks of meat are amino acids, lipids, carbohydrates, minerals, and water. The Manhattan Beach Project has discovered a method to gather these five elements from plants and to “reassemble them into the well-known architecture of meat.” The culmination of this research is the Beyond Burger.  

 

Overall impact

Ethan eloquently summarized Beyond Meat’s impact as “...simultaneously solving four very important problems in our world.  (1) human health, (2) climate [change], (3) natural resource conservation, and (4) animal welfare.” 

Inspiration

Ethan explained the initial inspiration for Beyond Meat started from childhood after witnessing “the amount of animal welfare issues around animal protein.” His interest grew as an adult after seeing the growing impact animal agriculture has on climate change “in terms of the emissions connected to livestock, both carbon and methane, and the incredible resource intensity to create one pound of meat.”  

However, Ethan’s career did not start in the food industry but rather clean technology research. While working on a large fuel cell project, backed by more than a billion dollars of funding, Ethan thought, “If you spent a billion dollars in creating meat direct from plants, you’d have a far greater impact on the climate and on natural resources than creating a lithium ion battery or fuel cell.”  

This realization spurred Ethan to leave the clean tech field and to recruit the core team and resources necessary to form Beyond Meat in 2009.

Business benefit

The Beyond Burger has opened a crucial mass-market consumer channel, the grocery store meat case. Ethan explained grocery stores traditionally keep plant-based protein products in a “meat alternative case” which is often “difficult to find and main street consumers don’t go there.” Ethan continues, “It was a very long effort to get into the meat case and to sell our product next to animal protein.”  

This changed when Whole Foods agreed to sell the Beyond Burger next to animal protein in their meat case. Ethan proudly described “the gratifying feeling of walking into the store, back to the what has historically been the meat case, and seeing a plant-based meat with the words Beyond Meat [as] something that gave me great hope for the future.”

In addition, Whole Foods has benefited with "tremendous sales", and Beyond Meat is “growing very, very fast; we have more orders than we can fill.”

Social and environmental benefit

The numerous societal and environmental benefits of the Beyond Burger include:

  • Improved health and wellness of Beyond Burger consumers compared to eating red meat
  • Vastly more efficient use of natural resources to responsibly provide plant-based meat for the world’s growing population
  • Offers an environmentally responsible alternative to developing countries, like China, to meet their growing domestic demand for meat without creating large-scale beef, pork, and poultry infrastructure that requires intense water, energy, and feed consumption
  • No animal welfare concerns in a plant-based meat supply chain
  • Reduce carbon dioxide and methane emissions from livestock that contribute to climate change

Interview(s)

Ethan Brown, Founder, President, & CEO

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2 comments
  • Chris Laszlo
    Chris Laszlo The challenge of creating a vegetable burger is not new, but Beyond Meat has created a product that acts like meat and is sold next to the meat burgers in grocery stores. A powerful example of providing a sustainable solution to the harm that arises from...  more
    January 18
  • Megan Buchter
    Megan Buchter What a wonderful innovation! The benefits of this product are so great. I can't wait to try it!
    January 18