Food: The rise and fall of Beyond Meat


Graphic by Shraddha Sriram

Compared to the past, where veggie burgers just tasted like beans and peas, Beyond Meat has taken on the challenge to make burgers look and taste just like the real thing. Originally, and even most veggie burgers today, consist of many ingredients, including, but not limited to: legumes, like soybeans or lentils, grains, proteins (mainly pea protein), coconut oil and vital wheat gluten. Beyond Meat, on the other hand, only contains a few ingredients. These ingredients do not only serve towards the aspect of taste though – some are for color, others for protein and some even for how the burger appears when cooked on a grill. 

Beyond Meat was a game changer for plant-based burgers due to their approach of wanting their product to mirror the characteristics of a real burger. This attracted many self-identified meat eaters. According to the founder of Beyond Meat, Ethan Brown, 93% of people purchasing the Beyond Burger are not vegetarian or vegan. Even though the burger has certain health benefits, such as it containing no cholesterol, it still has ingredients such as coconut oil, which is used to represent the visual and textural appeal of a regular burger. 

Even though the plant-based burger is healthier, its biggest benefit is to the planet. According to OurWorldInData, it takes about 100 times as much land to produce a kilocalorie of lamb or beef compared to plant-based alternatives. Not only is this a preposterous amount, but the adult human diet includes a majority of calorie intake coming from meat; the rest coming from grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts, states According to UC Davis, livestock also contributes to 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions. To put this into perspective, this means that livestock alone contributes to more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, buses, planes and trains in the world. 

Closer to the beginning of the release of Beyond Meat, many people were interested in trying the Beyond Meat burger to see how close it was to meat. When people tasted the Beyond Meat burger, though, they did not enjoy it as much as a real one. Another factor of Beyond Meat’s decrease in sales is the price of Beyond Meat’s products compared to meat products. As of now, at the major retailers that sell Beyond products, Walmart and Kroger’s, you can buy two Beyond Meat patties for $5.99, whereas at the same stores, you can get about two pounds of ground beef for about the same price. 

Although Beyond Meat´s products are healthier and much better for the planet, its taste and price have yet to compare to real meat.