Beyond Meat puts real flavor into plant-based protein


June 12, 2012

Beyond Meat has launched plant-based protein strips that emulate the flavor and texture of chicken meat

Beyond Meat has launched plant-based protein strips that emulate the flavor and texture of chicken meat

A new brand of plant-based protein food that promises to look, feel, taste and act like chicken meat has hit the stores in the US with a promise to offer a tasty alternative to animal-based food. Beyond Meat is the brainchild of Ethan Brown, an entrepreneur who was brought up on a dairy farm in Maryland USA, whose first-hand experience with animal agriculture led him to adopt a vegan lifestyle. Frustrated with the options available, he decided to search for a better plant-based, processed vegan option to replace meat.

His mission to decrease the number of animals slaughtered for food with innovative plant protein led him to cross paths with Fu-hung Hsieh and Harold Huff at the University of Missouri. Together they developed a process that has been licensed exclusively from that university. Beyond Meat’s processing plant is more like a laboratory than a kitchen (and definitely not like an abattoir), where different ingredients based on soy, pea, carrot and gluten-free flour, among others, undergo a cooking and cooling process before strips of the stuff come out of customized equipment.

The new brand arrives at the market with the endorsement of one of the world’s most famous vegans. The Obvious Corporation, one of its financial supporters, was founded and is headed by Twitter’s Biz Stone. Stone is well known for his engagement to the vegan cause and he even published a link on the Obvious home page to the announcement of his support of Beyond Meat. He believes the company is a game-changer that will become the market leader in the development and introduction of new plant protein products.

Beyond Meat is not the first attempt to mimic meat with plant ingredients (see Gizmag's report on the Fraunhofer Institute’s Vegetarian cutlet factory). But Ethan Brown’s offering is the first one to hit the market with this level of mimetic power, designed to win over to the vegan lifestyle those who appreciate the texture of meat.

Animal agriculture is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases and is estimated to contribute 18 percent of the global total, according to a UN report from 2006, Livestock's long shadow. More than 50 billion land animals are slaughtered every year.

Source: Beyond Meat, Obvious Corporation

About the Author
Antonio Pasolini Brazilian-Italian Antonio Pasolini graduated in journalism in Brazil before heading out to London for an MA in film and television studies. He fell in love with the city and spent 13 years there as a film reviewer before settling back in Brazil. Antonio's passion for green issues - and the outdoors - eventually got the best of him and since 2007 he's been writing about alternative energy, sustainability and new technology. All articles by Antonio Pasolini

Ingredient List:

Water, Soy Protein Isolate, Pea Protein Isolate, Amaranth, Chicken Flavor (Maltodextrin, Yeast Extract, Natural Flavoring), Soy Fiber, Carrot Fiber, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Dipotassium Phosphate, Titanium Dioxide, White Vinegar

2 Questions:

What is the "natural flavoring"? It takes chickens to make chicken stock...

Also, my daughter is allergic to Soy.. any alternatives to that?


More power to them if they can make it work, but my fear is that the reality won't live up to the hype. I'll stick with the real thing. Sorry, chickens.


It seems to me that there is a heavy emphasis on the fact that some of this product is sourced from healthy vegetables, but I am not seeing a lot of questioning of just how healthy the final product is once it has undergone processing. After all the potato is a vegetable but it is decidedly unhealthy once it has been processed into a potato chip.


I'm vegetarian and i like vegetables. I don't even want to pretend to be eating a chicken. If you know how to cook then you can get whatever flavour you want out of vegetables, mushrooms, beans, grains etc etc

Putting that little rant aside, it is still a useful thing to be creating new tasty foods and if it means less animals are getting killed then that's a good thing no? I think one day in the future there will be no more meat eating.


In Homer voice:

"Mmmm.. Dipotassium Phosphate!"


If their food is so good why do they want it to look and taste like ours?

Eric Eisinger

I don't understand. If you don't want to eat meat, don't eat meat. Why do you want to eat vegetables that taste and look and feel like meat? Just don't eat meat.

This is like those ridiculous low fat / low sugar "alternative" foods. Just eat foods low in those things. EG: 50% fat reduced butter? What? Just eat 50% less butter. Don't want to eat animals? Don't eat animals. I like to eat animals, so I eat them. Giving me a factory produced chemical mishmash that approximates animals is not going to win me over because I'm not up for eating "dipotassium phosphate" or "isolates" or titanium dioxide for that matter. Not unless those thing naturally occur in something I've pulled out of the ground.


I'm fine with almost all of the ingredients. The exceptions are Dipotassium Phosphate and Titanium Dioxide. I do know that titanium dioxide is used in toothpaste (to give it that ultra-white look), but this is something that I would be eating - very different to just brushing your teeth and spitting out the toothpaste. I'd say this is very promising, but if they can ditch the Dipotassium Phosphate and Titanium Dioxide, they should. I think that would make people a lot more comfortable with it.


For those of you that keep asking why they are trying to make this product look and taste like meat. It is the same reason that Linda McCarthney made many of her selections look and taste as much like meat products as possible and the same for Morning Star and their ilk. It is to attack the person who wants to eat healthier or is thinking about the vegetarian lifestyle but still wants a good hamburger or meat sause for their spaghetti. Or for the person who needs to trick the other people at the dinner table into a meatless meal.

Peggy Hall
The best part of a chicken is the skin. But in all seriousness everything seems to remind people of chicken. Serve them rattlesnake and they will say its sort of like chicken. For us real carnivors beef is the treat. Make it taste like beef or a tender young lobster and we are on a roll. Some of the soy burgers and crumble products are actually quite good now. Now if we could get the prices down a bit we would be chomping more. Jim Sadler

I was looking at this product. I have some concerns as well. here they are.

this company says it uses non GM O's, is this company using SOY grown in the USA? If so, it is 100% grown with Monsanto Soy seed's. If this is the case then these seeds are G MO.

second issue is the Maltodextrin, this is a modified starch derivative. if they are buying Maltodextrin in the USA then it is most assuredly using Corn Starch. all corn in the USA is grown with G MO seeds. This is also contrary to their label stating that they are non G MO.

last but not least if you are going to sell something stating that you are a wholesome food company using nothing but healthy foods "list your ingredients" ALL OF THEM! not just a generic term like "Natural Flavoring"

i am scratching my head on this one...


If not eating meat were such a great thing why are we trying to make things "taste like" meat? Ever notice the rest of us trying to make meat taste like broccolli? "Hey, we made a hamberger that tastes just like green beans!" just isn't something I ever expect to hear. Besides, I'm a breathairian,,, I needs my beef.


Peggy is on the right track, but I don't think we want to "attack" the health-minded so much as attract them :) Meat-like, plant based products tend to be a bridge for those making the transition to a healthier life and planet and allow for familiar recipes to alleviate "withdrawal" stress, until more enlightened recipe and cooking skills are adopted. But the true market potential is far wider, as the story indicates. Viable solutions to the issues of global food resources, climate change and animal empathy will require innovative thinking and these ideas will gain momentum with such bridge products. Market support for these new products will help shift capital investment from less healthy alternatives. Imagine one day finding Tyson Chickless at your local market! Or the day when the ignorant "Meat is a red-blooded, all American, God fearin' right" mentality is as curious and laughable as cigarettes in old-time movies!

Brian Sharpe

I've been in love with the chemicals Inostitol and the Guanylates since my chilhood in the early 1960s. The extremely bitter "yeast extract" and MSG please my taste buds as well. They make beef so much more "beefier". Chickenlike flavor can be approached with onion powder, sugar, and alot of salt along with a thick hydrogenated vegatable fat. I am a medical chemist who is dissapointed with my fellow Food Chemists for not getting on the ball. (the father character "Grizwald" in those National Lampoon "Vacation" movies is supposed to be a Food Chemist). Food texturizing could benefit from the textile folks actually finding ways of "weaving fleshlike fabric" out of vegetation. There is no compelling reason not to be a vegetarian now a days except for taste and nutritional "efficiency" (meat has EVERYTHING...except fiber). Meat production is of course a very INEFFICIENT way of delivering nutrition. As for "lab meat" ah ha ha HA! The cost of the chemicals alone now makes it simple wishful thinking. What has been done so far is nothing more than Blood Sausage (look up how it's been made for centuries) and to call it "meat" is a joke on the public. Cellular Biology has yet to grow anything one could call tissue (blood is however scientifically considered a tissue "in a liquid matrix" called plasma). All "organs" are highly complex tissue stuctures and no one yet has grown an organ per se let alone a slab of muscle from a single cell. Single cells could be infiltrated into an edible vegetable spongelike creation however. Tempting my imagination based on knowledge I could forsee a "something" bulking up in a lab vessel someday and I would expect it's origin to be what we call a cancerous tumor. Bon appetit :D

James Moskola

The reason we have to make fake meat (despite not wanting to eat meat or dead things) is because our culture is brainwashed. They think they can't survive without meat and are taught to want it etc etc. Thus we replace it with something similar but that doesn't murder innocent sentient beings. A lot of people don't eat meat because 1. it's horrible for the environment and 2. it's wrong to take a life. So with fake meat at least those things are eliminated. We are used to certain things because of the society we live in, so our only option right now is to mimic it. God forbid we want to eat something we're use to, but make it humane. sue us for giving a damn about something other than ourselves or our bloated stomachs.

Lorianne Gilmore

Sounds fantastic for all Vegans. I like the mixing of Science with Food.

Lance Russell

@SCION and a couple others....

There are some people who cannot digest animal protein due to illness.

Personally, I love a good steak on occasion. I also enjoy a well-seasoned bit of chicken, too. But I would not mind eating a substitute product. In the 1970's, Lipton had a seasoned soy product called "Make a Better Burger." You'd add water to a packet of textured, dehydrated soy and then mix it with hamburger. I tried it just for the hell of it and then bought it regularly when I discovered how good it tasted. It was much better than hamburger alone. Hamburgers/meatloaf/meatballs made with the mix and hamburger was juicy and very tasty.

If someone could make a 100% veggie meat substitute taste as good and if it cost less than meat, I'd buy it. Not because I'm a treehugger (trust me, I'm not) or have vegan tendencies. Raising meat animals is a strain on the global economy and uses up a hell of a lot of natural resources (water, for instance) than growing soybeans does. As global population rises, look for a similar increase in meat prices. Population growth easily outstrips production capability. I'd rather get used to eating more veggies now than end up going cold turkey in 20-30 years.


Ingredient List:

Water, Soy Protein Isolate, Pea Protein Isolate, Amaranth, Chicken Flavor (Maltodextrin, Yeast Extract, Natural Flavoring), Soy Fiber, Carrot Fiber, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Dipotassium Phosphate, Titanium Dioxide, White Vinegar

2 Questions:

What is the "natural flavoring"? It takes chickens to make chicken stock...

Also, my daughter is allergic to Soy.. any alternatives to that? Frank_Avg- June 12, 2012 @ 11:45 am PDT ............................................ Frank, 1. Where meat is concerned, where is the flavor? It's in the fat.

Soy protien is the base of choice because of low cost provided by wide availability. Think about how many cultures worldwide that have tofu as a staple in their diet. While your daughters condition isn't unusual, any alternative to soy must be able to compete in the marketplace. Soy is just too cheap for that to happen soon. NK Fro

A similar product that's already on the market for a long time. Doesn't contain soy I think. I've been eating it for quite some years now. Strange that not too many people know about it...


If it's cheaper than chicken, just as nutritious, and taste like vegetarians do, I'll try it.

Dave B13

lol...animal agriculture contributes to greenhouse gasses? How much CO2 would have been released into the atmosphere by decompoising hay that cow had not consumed it? 11 tons...there is no negative net effect on the environment by any cow.


[Took me] about 2 minutes of research to find this:

Titanium Dioxide Classified as Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans

Titanium dioxide has recently been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen ''possibly carcinogen to humans''. Titanium dioxide accounts for 70% of the total production volume of pigments worldwide. It is widely used to provide whiteness and opacity to products such as paints, plastics, papers, inks, foods, and toothpastes. It is also used in cosmetic and skin care products, and it is present in almost every sunblock, where it helps protect the skin from ultraviolet light...

I sent an e-mail to the company asking why there's a suspected human carcinogen in their "food" and they didn't respond. Then I asked via Twitter, and they didn't respond. Then I asked Biz Stone in a tweet...and he didn't respond.

Marc Librescu

I tried it, they had it at Whole Foods. It was ...interesting. It was made in a chickenish salad with mayo, grapes, nuts, and it was...ok. A) I think it had been sitting in the mayo for too long, and B) i don't really like vegan mayo. The texture was kind of squashy and it didn't taste like much...but the aftertaste was really good. It was kind of weird, tasting better after you ate it. I would like to try it not soaking in sauce in a deli counter all day.

Kairi Clark
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