Veggie burgers aren’t a new idea, but plant-based options from Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods that claim to taste like real meat are becoming more common on fast food menus and grocery shelves.
Beyond Meat calls itself “The Future of Protein,” saying their product is healthier and more sustainable than actual meat.
This has beef producers, like Lynn Grant who raises cattle near Val Marie, Sask., looking at their own business.
“I think largely it’s a wake-up call to our industry that we’ve not done a good enough job telling our story,” Grant said.
“It’s a very natural product. If you look at the ingredient list of a package of beef that you buy in the store there’s one word on it. It’s beef.”
There’s big money behind Beyond Meat, as the company’s stock is valued around $170 per share as of June 10, a major increase from its $25 per share initial public offering on May 1, 2019.
With the new Canada Food Guide stressing the importance of plant-based dietary choices and growing popularity of meat substitutes, Grant said part of the story they need to do more is talk about the nutrition benefits of beef.
“It has several of the nutrients that humans need naturally. All of those ingredients have to be added artificially to Beyond Meat,” Grant said.
This was echoed by registered dietitian Carol Harrison. Harrison was among the presenters at the 106th Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association annual general meeting in Moose Jaw, Sask.
“It’s very much an ultra-processed food. It’s really not what I, as a registered dietitian, I would recommend in terms of making good, quality plant-based choices,” Harrison said.
“There’s 22 ingredients and 11 nutrients added; compare that to a beef burger, which is just one ingredient. If you want to eat more plant-based foods in your diet, I’d recommend you think about vegetables and fruits and beans and nuts and seeds as opposed to these highly processed options.”
Harrison recommends following the Canada Food Guide’s plate recommendation – fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with whole grains and a quarter with protein.
“Sometimes I think there’s just too much emphasis that’s put on a single food choice,” Harrison said. “Think less about whether a plant-based ultra-processed food is healthier than another food. It’s really the total diet that matters.”
As for getting the industry’s story out, Grant said he doesn’t know much about that. That’s where people like Real Agriculture’s news lead Jessika Guse come in.
She served as MC for the stock grower’s AGM and anticipates a beefy marketing campaign coming from the sector.
“I think it’s a little skewed in the public perception. Beyond Meat is just a label. It is really good marketing by their company by getting that out,” she said.
“I think more what we’re going to see is the beef guys be stronger with their wording in regard to what their burger is, because it all breaks down to labelling.”