It’s hard to beat a beautiful Canadian summer! Fun in the sun, beach time, lake days, and of course, the sizzle of a grill as you barbecue a simple patty comprised of twenty-one ingredients, like bamboo cellulose, vegetable glycerin, gum arabic, and pea protein isolate…just no actual meat. Yeah, I’m talking about the Beyond Meat sensation that is on the news, in your Facebook feed, featured in advertisements, and speculated about on Wall Street.
When it comes to food preferences, I’m not opposed to options. While I enjoy serving and eating ranch-raised beef, I also eat other proteins, so long as they aren’t in disguise. I make a mean lentil chowder, serve baked beans at many large meals, and have been known to eat an entire container of hummus at one sitting (don’t judge me).
Diet diversity is important for what it is – diversity. However, some Beyond Meat proponents make false claims, saying it is “healthier” or more “environmentally friendly.” Well my friends, the devil is in the details, and when you look at the fine print, these claims are wrong.
Myth 1. Plants are always healthier… right?
I took a minute to compare nutritional parameters between beef and peanut butter, our other handy household protein source. A small serving of peanut butter (32 g) had less protein, more calories, more fat (including saturated fat) and zero iron, compared to 75 grams of cooked lean beef. I’m not going to cut back serving either to my kids but I’ll admit I was a bit surprised that when it comes to packing a nutritional punch, beef handily surpasses an old-fashioned PBJ.
What about looking at how the Beyond Meat burger compares with a beef burger? According to this article, a 113 gram Beyond Meat patty has 250 calories, 18 grams of fat, 390 mg of sodium and 20 grams of protein. Health Canada rates 113 grams of lean ground beef as having 292 calories, 16.5 grams of fat, 105 mg of sodium and 33 grams of protein. If consumers need a nutrient dense, high protein, low-sodium diet, real beef is the healthier option. If people are worried about consuming processed foods, a faux meat patty made from 18-21 ingredients is the much more highly processed option. A ranch-raised beef patty served here isn’t processed at all, unless you consider the four pairs of helping hands that went into forming it.
Myth 2. Plant-based protein is better for the environment.
No! NO! This is wildly inaccurate.
I’m not sure exactly what inputs are required to extract bamboo cellulose or derive pea protein isolate, but I do know that grasslands and beef cattle support natural wildlife habitat, preserve fragile land, and make use of marginal land incapable of producing other crops. No other agricultural enterprise in Canada supports natural biodiversity or maintains sensitive ecosystems as well as beef cattle. Grasslands provide habitat for thousands of species, including many species at risk such as loggerhead shrikes and short-eared owls. Grasslands also provide dozens of ecosystem services like carbon sequestration, groundwater recharge, soil protection, and nutrient cycling, to name just a few. Does gum arabic do that? What is gum arabic? Beef is truly the ultimate plant-based protein and the beef cattle sector continues to make positive strides to become more efficient with water and energy. Plus, innovation and research is enabling beef farmers to make use of human-inedible by-products like ethanol distillers grains, potato peels, and even leftover beer-making ingredients.
At the end of the day, I am just a mom, standing in front of her hungry kids, trying to feed them a well-balanced, healthy diet. If they want a healthy, environmentally-friendly juicy burger that looks like beef, tastes like beef, has the same texture as beef, and smells like beef – I’m going to serve beef!
Beyond meat is beyond me.
Isn’t Beef Canada’s Ultimate Plant Based Protein? Beef cattle Research Council
Why Canadian beef? Canada Beef