Meat production is one of the worst sustainability offenders in the Big Ag industry in terms of water usage, land usage, and GHG emissions. Beyond Meat avoids all of the traditional sustainability hazards of meat production by producing, what I believe to be, one of the closest beef alternatives on the market. The core mission and beliefs of Beyond Meat are centered around their sustainability commitments of using less energy, less water, less resources, and less emissions while still tasting amazing. It’s companies like Beyond Meat that allow a whole new generation of vegans and vegetarians to take the stage and show that cutting meat from your diet doesn’t make for a difficult or flavorless diet.
One of the main ingredients that has been up and coming in most meat-alternative brands are legumes. In Beyond Sausage, the three tops ingredients are Pea Protein, Refined Coconut Oil, and Sunflower Oil. Having a “meat” product that uses peas rather than actual beef allows Beyond Meat to cut back drastically on their environmental impact. Time magazine writes about pea proteins saying, “Pea proteins can basically do everything that wheat, corn, and soy can’t. They require less water, are drought tolerant, reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizers, and are the ideal candidate for crop rotation which ensures soil health.” Switching from beef to peas doesn't mean you take a hit on amount of protein either, in fact it means the exact opposite. Just one link of Beyond Sausage in 25% of you daily recommended amount of protein, while traditional beef sausage links are about 16% of your daily needed protein. The one conversion I think Beyond Meat could make would be switching from regular coconut oil to organic coconut oil in order to reduce the use of pesticides in their production line.
The University of Michigan conducted a Life Cycle Analysis comparing the environmental impact of the Beyond Burger to a the traditional beef burger and found astonishing results. The Beyond Burger used 99% less water, 93% less land, produced 90% fewer GHG emissions, and used 46% less energy. Because the Beyond Burger has the same main ingredients as the Beyond Sausages, these statistics are applicable to the sausage as well. The main source of GHG emissions, water use, and land use from Beyond Meat comes from the production of ingredients, namely pea proteins, canola oil, and coconut oil. The next main source of their GHG emissions comes from the polypropylene tray that the meat-alternative is packaged in. This study conducted by UMich, which came out in 2018, suggested switching to more sustainable packing trays, and by 2019 Beyond Meat had made the switch for their sausages to be packaged in recycled cardboard. This switch highlights Beyond Meat’s commitment to being as sustainable as possible, as well as showing that they can acknowledge the areas they are lacking in and make the improvements when called upon to do so.
The only thing I would like to have more information on is their farming and ingredient sourcing, as well as manufacturing. Beyond Meat doesn’t provide a lot of information on their legume harvesting practices, and since legumes are the main ingredient in most of their products I think costumers would benefit from this information being more publicly available. However, this lack of information does not take away from the main sustainability mission of Beyond Meat. No matter how these legumes are farmed, they are still far more sustainable than traditional beef production.
Founder and CEO Ethan Brown first came up with the idea for Beyond Meat when he became a vegan but wasn’t ready to give up on fast food. Ethan also deserves a quick shout out because we both graduated from the same alma mater, Connecticut College.
Beyond Meat’s main mission aligns very closely with four of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: human health, climate change, constraints on natural resources, and animal welfare. I can say from my research on their products and their core sustainability commitments, Beyond Meat is doing an excellent job of helping us get closer to achieving those four goals. Something to note is that Beyond Meat recently partnered with PepsiCo, one of the world’s largest food and beverage production companies, which is a huge win for both companies. As a smaller, but growing company, partnering with PepsiCo means Beyond Meat is able to enter more production channels and reach way more customers than ever before. For PepsiCo, partnering with such a sustainable brand looks good for such a massive corporation that is responsible for a part of Big Ag’s huge GHG emissions and will hopefully encourage them to adopt more sustainable practices. Pumping up production across continents should fuel Beyond Meat’s mission of bringing sustainable meat alternatives to as many people across the globe. The more access people have to meat alternatives, the less environmental degradation the beef industry can do.