November 14, 2018 |
In the second part of our meatless meat series we are taking a look at Beyond Meat which is a Los Angeles based start-up founded by Ethan Brown back in 2009, who managed to get superstar investors such as Bill Gates, Kleiner Perkins and the former CEO of McDonald’s to back his vision of a completely new approach to producing plant-based meat substitutes.
Ethan ventured into this business after researching ways to produce an actual alternative meat product instead of just using tofu as a burger patty. He stumbled upon a group of scientists in Missouri who were experimenting in this direction and teamed up with them to start their endeavour of solving the four big problems that come with traditional meat consumption:
1. Greatly improving human health by consuming cleaner meat with less cholesterol and no added hormones.
2. Climate change. Today, breeding livestock contributes 51% of greenhouse gas emissions, which means this is worse than car exhausts.
3. To breed livestock, producers use exorbitant amounts of natural resources. For example, to produce 1kg of meat, an average of 15,000 litres of water is needed.
4. Animal welfare. More and more people are starting to realize and getting concerned about how animals are being kept and treated at farms and large-scale meat producers.
Ethan and his scientists at Beyond Meat found that the solution to these problems is to go against the approach of growing beef, chicken, ducks and other animal meat in a lab and instead to make the actual animals redundant by producing meat purely out of plants. This involves a complex manufacturing process that takes elements of different plants and assembles their proteins against the architecture of meat. The scientists basically realign the core protein from the plants into the fibre structure of muscle.
To be able to do that they put animal muscle tissue under the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) in order to identify the granular structure of the key ingredients of the meat. The result of this analysis showed that there are just four key ingredients are needed to build meat: amino acids, lipids (which are the building blocks of the structure of living cells), trace minerals (iron, iodine, zinc, etc.) and water. However, in total there are over 1,000 molecules that make meat feel and taste like meat, so after isolating them in the animal muscles, Beyond Meat needs to find ways to match them with molecules of similar behaviour in plants.
The key challenge then is to assemble these 4 elements correctly so they behave the same way “normal” meat does, when cooked. In order to add value for the consumer it needs to smell exactly like animal meat would smell when grilled and it needs to change its colour from pink to grey. In order to achieve this, the team is constantly running experiments to improve the quality of their meat alternative.
Ethan recognizes that meat and its consumption are an important part of our lives but wants to stimulate a transition of mindset in modern day society to still be able to eat and enjoy meat, but it should just be plant-based. With this small change people can still have an actual burger or sausage or steak, but without having to worry about the bad environmental impacts of regular animal meat. Other proven benefits are also the use of sunflower and pea proteins in Beyond Meat’s products as they are great for growth. So, for children it is actually a superior version of meat as there is no cholesterol and it benefits their growing body and has much lower levels of saturated fat.
So far, the company has been able to raise US$ 150 million from its prominent investors which enables them to increase their production to meet fast growing demand as well as getting ready for international expansion. Currently Ethan and his team are eyeing the launch of their products in Europe with UK and Germany being the pilot markets in this region.
April 12, 2019
April 5, 2019
March 15, 2019