There are some things you just don’t expect to see. After all, how weird would it be to see a baby at a night club, an elephant trotting down Fifth Avenue, or say, a vegan burger being sold at the butcher counter? Well, Beyond Meat, the company who says they have formulated a plant-based burger that can truly compete with the traditional kind, is doing just that.

Beyond Meat’s new “Beyond Burger” will debut in a Whole Foods location in Boulder, Colorado, but instead of stocking the plant-based patty in the frozen section where you find other frozen veggie burgers, it will be sold in a case directly alongside meat, poultry, pork, and lamb.

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The bold move has been one that Beyond Meat’s founder, Ethan Brown, has been plotting from the start. His motivation? To target a much wider audience than those that deliberately go looking for plant-based alternatives to meat and cheese. And with one-third of Americans choosing to leave meat off their plate more frequently, and dairy consumption on a steady decline since the 1970s, we’d say this group of consumers is bigger than ever.

“I want as many people as possible to have access to our products,” Mr. Brown said. “My goals go way beyond food.”

Brown’s statement could not be more accurate. Despite the fact that the Beyond Burger is obviously being praised for its taste and texture, its impact will go far beyond taste buds. Producing enough animal protein to feed the world’s ever-growing population is proving to be the greatest challenge of our time. At current rates, the livestock system covers over 50 percent of the world’s land and uses a majority of freshwater supplies. Given that the average person in the developed world consumes two-thirds more protein than is recommended, the demand for meat is absurdly high and extremely unsustainable. Thankfully, products like the Beyond Burger that are made of plant-proteins can provide all the benefits of taste and texture that come with meat while having a minimal negative impact on the planet.

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“In terms of technology that has the potential to save our planet from the grips of total collapse, while offering a high-quality product that consumers actually crave and desire, plant-based proteins are well on their way to winning the race for the future of food,” said Nil Zacharias, Co-Founder of One Green Planet. “As I have said before, plant-proteins are to the food industry what Tesla is to the automotive industry. While one brand is yet to emerge with a product that has the obvious potential to single-handedly transform the global meat industry from the inside out, I believe it’s only a matter of time – and the Beyond Burger represents the sort of innovation that could usher in this change.”

The plant-based burger is one of the many products aiming to propel us into the future of food, an era when the food industry will begin to make more sustainable choices and start supporting products that could actually feed the world’s growing population. As uneasy as it may make some people seeking meat alternatives to go to the very counter they are trying to avoid, Brown’s decision sees the bigger picture: if we want people to honestly put the hamburger down and pick up a vegan burger, the options need to be presented side by side. While the Beyond Burger will obviously be a wonderful option for those already seeking to leave meat out of their routine, a focus must be put on those not yet convinced to #EatForthePlanet and embrace the newest plant-based creations if we’re ever going to transform the infrastructure of the food system. Only then, will we truly start to see change.

Image Source: Ángel Franco/The New York Times

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