Inside the burger company that Leonardo DiCaprio and Bill Gates are pouring money into
For many, the thought of a plant-based burger that’s meant to look, taste and completely emulate a real meat burger is completely dubious.
Most would agree that there’s nothing wrong with veggie burgers, but that there’s a clear distinction between what constitutes a vegetarian alternative and a "real," filling burger.
But thanks to Ethan Brown, CEO of Beyond Meat, that concept has been completely flipped on its head with a veggie burger that actually "bleeds."
Dedicated to building meat directly from plants, Beyond Meat has created a 100 percent vegan, plant-based burger that’s loaded with over 20 grams of protein -- and it's actually found in the the meat section of your grocery store.
Rattled? Brown broke it down to AOL:
"It’s been a goal for the company since the beginning to be placed in the meat case," he said. "The idea is that we can get hung up on the origin of meat … or we can focus more on the composition of meat, the sensory experience of meat. And if you make that slight shift in your thinking toward thinking about meat as a collection of amino acids, lipids, water, and you understand the architecture … who’s to say that’s not meat? If you’re willing to think about meat in terms of what its nutritional value is, what its sensory experience is, and not its origin … then you’re more open to the idea of ‘Well, this could be in the meat case.’"
The first of its kind, the Beyond Burger is actually able to imitate (while simultaneously staying true to its unique taste and form) an animal-based burger.
Founded in 2009, the company has seen explosive growth and big-name investors, including Bill Gates, Don Thompson, Tyson and most recently, Leonardo DiCaprio, who has been a vocal activist on climate change and sustainability.
Brown accredits his upbringing to his interests in agriculture and sustainability.
“I think a lot of my interest comes from my childhood. My father was someone who had a real love and appreciation for the countryside, and wanted us to spend as much time as we could there, so he bought a farm when I was very young and would take us out there. We ended up starting a cattle business there, or a dairy farm.
"I had a real passion for animals, and never understood the difference between the animals we kept in our barn and the ones in our house … that had always made me very uncomfortable. So, I saw this opportunity to go off in my own direction, to do something that spoke to my heart and spoke to biggest challenge that i faced with respect to climate."
This sparked an interest in Brown from a young age, leading him to study sustainability at college and leading to an epiphany of sorts once he enrolled in business school at Columbia.
Brown grew frustrated after attending seminars that focused heavily on environmental concerns and sustainability, only to be brought out to a steak dinner shortly thereafter — it all seemed counterintuitive to him.
“I kept thinking about the role that livestock had in climate, and that it was being kind of dramatically under-appreciated. There is too much emphasis being placed on the energy sector relative to the agricultural sector. If we could focus on the agricultural sector, then we could make much greater headway in terms of climate," he said. “If you really looked at the number associated with climate, the main driver in climate is protein inside of the plate, because of the emissions associated with all parts of the process.”
Beyond Meat currently sells products in over 11,000 stores throughout the U.S., with plans to expand its reach and product catalog annually. As Ethan told one of his key employees, “This is a lifetime employment company.”
The main objective for Brown and the team has always been “about enabling people to continue the traditions that they love, not telling them not to do it.”
Translation? If your Tuesday nights center around cooking up big, juicy burgers with your family, you don’t have to give that tradition up in any shape or form — you can just make a quick swap that’s so subtle, the only noticeable difference will be the one you make in the environment.
To learn more about Beyond Meat and the company’s products (including the Beyond Burger), visit here.
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