The inconvenient truth about Beyond Meat

Mike Jiggens

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For the past several months we’ve been inundated with television commercials espousing the virtues of Beyond Meat products. Almost every major fast food chain has jumped on the bandwagon, offering their customers a plant-based alternative to traditional hamburgers and the like.

Although I’ve never tried any of these Beyond Meat products, in theory they’re supposed to look, smell and taste just like the real McCoy. This makes me wonder what demographic these commercials are supposed to be targeting. Surely they’re not going to appeal to lifelong vegans and vegetarians. If they’ve never been exposed to meat or other animal byproducts, why would they want to eat something that looks, smells and tastes like beef?

I suspect the commercials are intended primarily for two groups of people – those who are recent converts to the vegan or vegetarian way of life, and those who perhaps have a guilty conscience about the environmental impact associated with processing meat products. In the television commercials, random people are given a hamburger to eat, believing it’s real meat. Moments later, they’re told the burgers are actually plant-based.

It makes me wonder how many of these people were actually fooled. Surely there must have been two or three who didn’t fall for it for each one who was genuinely duped. The individuals with spot-on taste buds would have thrown away their chance to appear in a real television commercial after their segments were left on the cutting room floor.

Somehow I just can’t imagine someone coming up with a concoction of plant-based substances that can fool the masses into thinking they’re eating meat. I suppose, though, it’s a step up from tofu. Why anyone would eat that is beyond me.

As I see it, the biggest drawback associated with these Beyond Meat products is the amount of sodium used to process them. I’ve had a couple of significant battles with kidney stones over the years, and I don’t need the excess salt.

Beyond Meat’s reception in the fast food market has varied. Tim Hortons has pulled Beyond Meat products from its menus, suggesting customers prefer real meat choices. Sales of Burger King’s Impossible Whopper have been slowing down of late. In the meantime, KFC has introduced a Beyond Meat chicken substitute in three U.S. states and Subway has come up with a Beyond Meatball sub, even going so far as hiring Martha Stewart to endorse the product.

I know of at least one individual who has tried one of these products, likening the taste to “dog food.” I hope he’s never actually tasted dog food for comparison’s sake.

Is Beyond Meat merely a fad or might it actually catch on? So far it seems like a lot of hit and miss. I prefer a balance of meat and vegetables in my diet, so there’s nothing about this that appeals to me whatsoever.

Studies show that 84 per cent of those who turn their backs on a meat and vegetable diet for one that is strictly vegetarian eventually return to eating meat. That’s a statistic that Beyond Meat’s shareholders won’t want to hear.

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