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Let Them Eat Meat! Ethan Brown of Beyond Meat on Redefining Meat Using Plants

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Let Them Eat Meat! Ethan Brown of Beyond Meat on Redefining Meat Using Plants

In this episode, I speak with Beyond Meat’s CEO, Ethan Brown.

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About Ethan Brown

Ethan Brown is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Beyond Meat, a company dedicated to building meat directly from plants.  Ethan gained an appreciation for agriculture and the natural world from his father, a professor, conservationist, and hobby farmer. This interest shaped the direction of his career, where he sought to make a contribution to climate change through the clean energy sector. Subsequently, Ethan joined the world’s leading Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell developer Ballard Power Systems.

Though passionate about clean energy, Ethan returned often to the role of livestock in our economy and became convinced that a change in the origin of the protein – from animals to plants – that we place at the center of our plates could simultaneously address human health, climate, natural resource, and animal welfare challenges in a unique and powerful way. In 2009, Ethan founded Beyond Meat.  Today, the Company sells products in more than 11,000 stores throughout the United States, including the Beyond Burger, the first plant-based meat to be sold in the meat aisle at major grocery chains (Whole Foods Market, Kroger, Albertsons Companies, etc.). Beyond Meat is routinely recognized for its innovation, including most recently by Fast Company in its Most Innovative Companies list for 2017.

Why You Should Listen

Beyond Meat has skyrocketed to the forefront of the plant-based protein space and in this interview, Ethan talks about the struggles and successes they have experienced on the way to perfecting their meat substitutes. 

There is a lot of competition in the meat alternative space but Ethan is set on ensuring that Beyond Meat products are not only superior in taste, but also in terms of quality of ingredients. In this episode, Ethan shares that Beyond Meat made a conscious choice not to use genetically modifying plants to create substances such as heme, the iron-rich compound that makes blood red, and they plan to keep no GMOs as a strict guardrail for their scientists. While other companies have employed plant-based heme as an agent to make their products turn from red to brown/gray when cooked, Ethan knows that transparency and consumer familiarity when it comes to ingredients are key.

People are looking for clean protein sources, in some cases that’s why they’re looking to replace meat, and having an ingredient list that is filled with GMOs, allergens, and chemicals that people don’t recognize is only going to turn people off meat alternatives. Similar logic was used when they decided to create a burger with pea protein instead of soy or wheat, due to consumer concerns about these ingredients.

He also talks about the unique challenges and innovations that come with pioneering the plant-based protein space and what new products they hope to roll out next. Ethan is incredibly driven and hopes to help his team become the group that completely transforms the food system.

People/Companies/Resources Mentioned in This Episode

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