Are Plant-Based Meats Good For You and The Planet?

February 16, 2020
February 16, 2020 Jim Paar

Are Plant-Based Meats Good For You and The Planet?

What Are Plant-based Meats?

Burgers made with plant-based ingredients instead of animal meat have become a hot item in grocery stores and even fast-food chains. The Beyond Burger — which Carl’s Jr., the restaurant impossible burger alternativesfamous for its particularly meaty dishes with ads starring models, incorporated into its menu — and the Impossible Burger, adopted by Burger King as a new Whopper patty, are two examples of the trendy alternatives out there. Every time you flip on the TV you see an ad for the Impossible burger. The advertisement shows consumers trying it and saying they can’t tell the difference between the real thing and the plant-based burger.

Some of the burgers are even designed to “bleed” like a rare-cooked burger, only with beetroot juice rather than animal fat. I wonder how this will fare with vegans and the vegetarian audience.
Beyond Meat’s ingredients include pea protein and canola oil. Impossible Food’s patties have soy protein and coconut oil. Impossible says its patties have a flavor and hue similar to beef partly because of soy leghemoglobin, a protein the company makes by genetically modifying yeast.

And unlike the fake meats that are often relegated into the vegan section, the newest crop of plant-based options are found in the meat aisle at your local supermarket. That’s right, the meat aisle! These companies aren’t just making food for vegans and vegetarians — they’re coming after those that love meat. I really can’t see a vegan buying plant-based meat out of the meat section, this would be a big turn-off.

My brother recently did some film footage to promote Cargill’s new protein plant. Cargill has recently dedicated a new facility to plant proteins. Cargill Protein, also known as Cargill Meat Solutions – which includes all of Cargill’s North American beef, turkey, foodservice and food distribution businesses – is headquartered in Wichita, Kansas. This location in America’s agricultural heartland keeps us close to both the farmers and the food companies who are our partners in delivering the wholesome, nutritious, high-quality meat products that consumers are seeking.

Cargill’s customers include foodservice operators, retailers, food manufacturers and more. To help them succeed, they partner with them at the Cargill Innovation Center in Wichita, one of the world’s most advanced food innovation centers that’s staffed with a team of culinary experts who know nearly everything there is to know about cooking protein.

Are Plant-based Meats Good For You?

As with many questions about diet, it depends. For better or worse, patties from Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods can be nutritionally similar to beef.

Beyond Meat’s 4-ounce patty is listed at 270 calories, while Impossible Foods’ is listed at 240 calories. Ground beef’s nutritional profile can range, but a similarly sized patty with 80 percent lean meat has around 290 calories.

The protein content is about the same, while other nutrients vary. Some may like that the plant-based patties have fiber but dislike that they’re higher in sodium.

For overall diet, what matters more might be how the patties are served, whether it’s at Burger King, White Castle or elsewhere.

At Umami Burger in New York, for example, a burger with two Impossible patties, cheese and fixings top 1,000 calories. Few would call it healthy, especially if served with fries and a soda. In fact, you may consider many fast-foods unhealthy unless it has real fresh ingredients. Consumers may not realize the saturated fat content can be the same as beef burgers.

Are Plant-based Meats Better For The Planet?

Beef is considered impacting on the environment because of the resources it takes to grow crops to feed cows. Cows also produce the greenhouse gas methane, mostly through burps.

Though grazing animals can play a positive role in the ecosystem, that’s not how most animals in the U.S. are raised, said Christopher Field, who is at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and who knows the founder of Impossible Foods. But he noted people don’t have to give up meat entirely to make a difference, and that pork and chicken have much smaller environmental footprints than beef.

Remember, many farmers are already growing crops to feed the cows. If you can simply take out the step of feeding the cows and take those crops directly to market as plant-based meat, you eliminate that step of killing cows to produce meat.

A cow does on overage release between 70 and 120 kg of Methane per year. Methane is a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide (CO2). But the negative effect on the climate of Methane is 23 times higher than the effect of CO2. Therefore the release of about 100 kg Methane per year for each cow is equivalent to about 2’300 kg CO2 per year.
Let’s compare this value of 2’300 kg CO2: The same amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) is generated by burning 1’000 liters of petrol. With a car using 8 liters of petrol per 100 km, you could drive 12’500 km per year (7’800 miles per year).

Worldwide, there are about 1.5 billion cows and bulls. All ruminants (animals which regurgitate food and re-chews it) on the world emit about two billion metric tons of CO2-equivalents per year. In addition, clearing of tropical forests and rain forests to get more grazing land and farmland is responsible for an extra 2.8 billion metric tons of CO2 emission per year!

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), agriculture is responsible for 18% of the total release of greenhouse gases world-wide (this is more than the whole transportation sector). Cattle-breeding is taking a major factor for these greenhouse gas emissions according to FAO. Says Henning Steinfeld, Chief of FAO’s Livestock Information and Policy Branch and senior author of the report: “Livestock is one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.”

Livestock now uses 30 percent of the earth’s entire land surface, mostly permanent pasture but also including 33 percent of the global arable land used to producing feed for livestock, the report notes. As forests are cleared to create new pastures, it is a major driver of deforestation, especially in Latin America where, for example, some 70 percent of former forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing.

Other Plant-Based Proteins and What’s Coming

Plant-based fish is the next big thing and could save our oceans. Heck, many of us have already eaten artificial crab meat in salads or sandwiches. Recently announced it is working on a plant-plant-based-fishbased fish recipe as part of the company’s mission to create replacements for all animal-based foods by 2035. The fish product will also use heme, the molecule responsible for making Impossible Burgers “bleed,” to recreate the fish flavor without using an ounce of animal product.

With the average American consumer eating over 14 pounds of fish and shellfish every year, the fish and seafood market might become the next industry to be turned on its head by the alternative meat craze.

Start-ups across the country are racing to claim their bit of market share before Impossible Foods launches its fishless fish. However, developing the product is presenting companies with a challenge they didn’t face when making plant-based hamburgers — the wide range of tastes across different species of fish.

The World Economic Forum reported almost 90% of the Earth’s fish reserves were either fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted. Alyssa Plese, a member of UC Berkeley’s Alternative Meats Lab, is confident plant-based fish could be the solution to the overfishing epidemic.

“They say that there’s no such thing as sustainable seafood, so that’s a really compelling reason why a lot of people are pursuing this,” said Plese.

UC Berkeley’s Alternative Meats Lab believes so strongly in this mission that it recently ran an experimental course challenging student teams to develop a good-tasting fish alternative. The winning team’s product was a plant-based salmon burger based around fungi, algae, and seaweed. The group now operates as Prime Roots and recently secured over $4.5 million in seed funding.

Here is a list of plant-based meats that have hit the market!

  • Impossible Burger
  • Beyond Meat Burger
  • Beyond Sausage
  • Lightlife Italian Sausage
  • Abbot’s Butcher “Chorizo”
  • Before the Butcher UNCUT Breakfast Sausage Patty
  • Tyson’s Raised & Rooted “Plant-Based Nuggets
  • Good Catch Fish-Free Plant-Based Tuna
  • Outstanding Foods PigOut Pigless Bacon Chips

Conclusion of Impossible Foods

The reality is people, want to make responsible decisions when it comes to our planet. Those non-vegetarian folks are even reconsidering eating meat because of so many stories of animal cruelty whether its chicken or cows.  Walk through the grocery store aisle and look at the options of organic, free-range, etc. The stores are carrying more and more of these products and consumers are willing to pay a little extra for a responsible buying decision.

When it comes to branding, you must know a strategy more than just putting a label on your product because consumers will do their research. Recently one brand lost millions in sales from cruelty and the process they were using. With social media, you better hire a company like ours to make sure you don’t get washed by consumers.

For more sustainable branding and marketing reach out to us at Full Motion Marketing

or to participate on the 2020 Clean Air Green Tour call us at 615-266-4911 or email

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