The Rise Of The Meat Alternative

May 22, 2019 | Food and Culture

It seems that over the last few weeks everywhere you turn people are talking about hamburgers that aren’t hamburgers. Meat made from plants, and not in the traditional sense of cow eats plants, turns into more cow. These plants, mostly soy and pea, are turned into meat in a lab. But why?

Today we are going to take a look at the rise of these meat substitutes. We will look at the two main companies behind this new wave of vegan meat alternatives. We’ll find out how their products are different from each other, and why we should care about them.

Today we are going beyond meat, and taking a look at the impossible foods of the future. Let’s get into it.


Beyond Meat –

If you live in Canada you have likely been hearing a lot about the Beyond Meat Burger. A&W has been selling Beyond Meat in Canada since July 2018 but it has only really hit the grocery stores here in the last few weeks. There has been a push to get the meat alternative into the grocery store fridges before grilling season kicked off last weekend.

Beyond Meat is a California based company that has been in business since 2009. Their mission is to fulfill the world’s protein needs with plants rather than animals. Why? They say to improve human health. Reduce the impact that feeding a grown global population has on our environment. Reduce the use of global resources like fresh water (currently 1/3 of all our fresh water goes to feeding live stock). Finally, to improving animal welfare.

Beyond Meat makes their meat alternative mostly with pea protein. This is mixed with canola oil, coconut oil, cellulose, potato starch, maltodextrin, yeast extract, salt, beet juice for colour, and a bunch of other stuff.

Their products do not contain peanuts or tree nut, however there has been some new research stating people with peanut allergies may have a reaction to pea protein. Beyond meat burgers are also gluten and soy free and GMO free.

Currently Beyond Meat is valued at $3.8 billion dollars and is sold in 50 countries.


Impossible Foods –

Impossible foods is also a California based company. They were founded in 2011. Like Beyond Meat, Impossible foods is on a mission to reduce the environmental impact of meat production and to feed a growing population.

The impossible burger doesn’t seem to have hit Canada just yet but is widely available in the US. Currently the only place to get an Impossible Burger outside the US is in Hong Kong. Eventually, they will be everywhere though.

Impossible foods makes there product mostly out of soy and potato proteins. They use coconut and sunflower oil to give the burger that meaty greasiness.

What really sets Impossible Foods apart from their competitors, including Beyond Meat is something they call Heme. Heme is this mythical item that is found in all living things. It is found in it’s greatest concentration in flesh and is what makes meat taste like meat. According to the company when we crave meat, we are actually craving Heme.

Impossible foods uses a genetically modified strain of yeast which they ferment, like brewing beer. But, rather than making beer they make Heme. If you are a little confused, let me clarify as best I can. It seems to me that they are essentially making a synthetic, plant based blood that they are using to flavour and colour their soy and potato proteins.

Impossible foods has defiantly taken a much more scientific approach than Beyond Meat, working at a molecular level to make something that supposedly really tastes like meat.


Meat Alternative Opinions –

Full disclosure, I have yet to try either of these products. One, the Impossible Burger I can’t get unless I travel to the US. The other, Beyond Meat, I actually looked for in the grocery store last night and couldn’t find. I am not opposed to trying either of these I just haven’t done it yet. When I do I will write about it.

Due to the fact that I haven’t tried either of these products I can’t speak to the flavour, texture, or overall meatiness of either of them. What I can say is that love the idea or hate it, meat alternatives are only going to become more and more prevalent. Likely, in a few years, no one will be able to tell the difference between meat and not meat.

There are some issues with these products. They are both very high in sodium and saturated fats. I think that is going to have to change before these really become a true meat alternative. When I say “true meat alternative” I mean meat eaters choose them over meat sometimes.

I think that it is important and an inevitability that we move partially away from animal protein sources. Beyond any other issue, it just isn’t sustainable with the current rate of global population growth. It just doesn’t make sense. So, if a company can produce a meat alternative that really is easier on the environment, and tastes great then I think it is fantastic.

I think that these alternatives, and the ones these companies and companies like them will be producing in the near future will in some ways allow us to have our cake and eat it too. We may still be able to get that delicious meat flavour and texture, but without the meat. I think it is an exciting and important prospect. What do you think?

2 Comments

  1. Bob Hickey

    Hi Ben. I’ve tried the Beyond Meat Burger (found at Sobeys) and cooked it on the BBQ. It actually was quite good. I’ve bought and cooked it a second time, which says something. But they are expensive.

  2. Chef Ben Kelly

    Thanks for the comment Bob. I will have to try them. I feel like with time the price will come down. If it doesn’t it will never be able to fulfill the mission of the company behind it.

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