I think that’s a fanciful comparison. More likely they worked the numbers and realize two things. First, the people most likely to buy meatless products weren’t part of their existing customer base, so there is no cannibalization. Second, that even if they don’t sell at meaningful volume, it’s fantastic PR. After all, when there are people so unaware of global trends and so wrapped up in their own desires and wishes that they honestly see meatless burgers as a harbinger of global change at scale... it would be crazy to leave the PR well untapped.
This is exactly what economists assume.
We have to reduce meat consumption as we understand the impact on climate change, and as ever more of the world gains a developed life. Meat consumption needs to trend like smoking.
I'd happily dump most of my meat eating if decent alternatives were out there. Those that I have tried so far are a distinctly second rate experience. I haven't yet managed to try any of these new generation. No matter how good their meat free product who would switch meat supplier on the strength of it? They're separate, just brands in the portfolio.
If means small, sustainable, organic meat production as a rare luxury is all that's left, great. Just as it used to be. Perhaps just a goose at Christmas. One day even that won't be necessary.
For the US I disagree. According to the math, if the entire country went 100% vegan it would cut emissions by 2-3%. If we're only going to look at individual habits there are other areas that are more impactful. Flying in airplane less would have a far larger impact than not eating meat. Or not having children, or owning an automobile etc.
Meat consumption has also declined in the US by ~25% since the 1960s. So you may get your wish :)
Growing more crops doesn't necessarily == better for the environment versus livestock either. Especially ruminants. They can actually be an important component of regenerative agriculture. I think that's what we need to encourage. They also utilize land that's not suitable for growing crops, and can eat things we can't and turn it into something nutritious for us.
I realize this argument goes against the narrative that's being put out. But according to the research I've seen this is the case. If you disagree I can't promise I'll have a detailed response but I'm always interested to hear others' thoughts.
I would love to see something, anything that validates that claim as it is wildly at odds with everything I have seen.
> Meat consumption has also declined in the US by ~25% since the 1960s.
You made a typo, you meant increased.
This article talks about and links to a paper discussing: https://qz.com/1131428/if-the-entire-us-went-vegan-itd-be-a-...
Their estimate was a 2.6% reduction.
> You made a typo, you meant increased.
I was thinking of beef consumption. Of course, consumption of poultry has increased. Which is supposedly the "healthy" option.
The article's premise that a vegan switch would be catastrophic for nutrition seems to assume we'll not change crops grown. Nor even reduce amount grown despite now having an additional 23% food surplus in mainly corn and soy. Then estimate 2.6% on those assumptions in their model.
Those are some very strange leaps. People will absolutely change their diet to suit, as would manufacturers, and we'd gradually change to a different balance of crops to achieve balanced nutrition. Nor would we expect to just keep on running a 25% surplus indefinitely.
While interesting, that would not happen for long in the real world or prices would fall and farmers go bankrupt. Or perhaps a new export opportunity and some farmers elsewhere would go under.
I just did a little more searching, and they acquired the Field Roast brand (which makes vegetarian sausages) last year as well. I'm guessing their research tells them that these brands are going to become more valuable in the future.
I'd like to suggest that the term "cannibalization" should be used gently when applied to a meat company.
I would also like to take a look at your comment in terms of assertions because I'm having a hard time parsing it.
- People who want meatless products aren't buying meat so they're an expansion opportunity. I think that's a fair assessment.
- Meatless products may not be big sellers but they're good PR. I'm not sure about this.
- People are unaware of global trends and are self-centered
- self-centred people see meatless burgers as a sign of global change
- making a meatless burger is good PR, so much so that not doing it is crazy.
Are you sure that last part makes any sense at all? It feels like an emotional appeal that doesn't really connect.
FWIW, if I were running a meat company I would be comparing the PR value of a meatless burger with the expense of tooling up an entire meat-free production and packing line. I think I'd need real sales to justify that outlay.
I think that the desire to eat meat-like products is much lower than a lot of people assume in vegetarian/vegan people. Products like Seitan and other "meat texture" items have always done poorly when compared to vegetarian/vegan offerings that simply omit any meat-like ingredients, some people don't like the texture of meat and those that do find near-meat but not meat products to always fall short - sort of like (all)gluten free bread, it exists and you can buy it, but it feels like having a mouth full of sand. If it's late and you're itching for a slice of toast but can't have it it's just better to find whole alternatives, nuts, maybe something involving harissa. I think imitation foods will always end up falling flat because they're imitations - and there is some psychological reinforcement there that keeps us from saying "close enough" even when it gets really close - probably the same effect that makes people try to call backsies if they fail the pepsi challenge.
I think the market for this type of fake meat are meat eaters with an environmental awareness.
By contrast, I would never serve 'meat-alikes' to my vegetarian friends. I always cook them proper veggie dishes because many of them don't like the flavours and textures they associate with dead animals.
A lot of people who are not vegetarian get the idea that the ideal vegetarian diet is basically the same as a normal North American diet, but without meat. The first questions people ask are, "What do you do about protein?", or "You must eat a lot of tofu, don't you?" or "How much salad do you eat?". They can't really comprehend a diet without something in the "meat category". In reality, my experience was that most long term vegetarians just eat a completely different diet. You aren't looking for "meat substitutes" because it doesn't occur to you that you are missing something. I rarely ate salad (don't really like it), or tofu (unless I made it myself -- in North America tofu sits in the store for weeks and becomes bitter and horrible), or "meat substitutes". Just legumes and rice or other combinations in curries and stews, etc, etc.
My wife eats meat/fish and so I am no longer a "bacon-eating vegetarian" but there is still a place where I would use a "meat substitute" -- basically where you want a filler and you don't want a meat flavour to dominate. "Hamburgers" can fall into that category. Consider most fast food burgers -- the flavour you get is dominated by the condiments and other ingredients. I really enjoy a veggie burger with a really nice slice of pickle and a great bun, good mustard, etc. If I'm going to eat beef, I vastly prefer to have really good beef and virtually no condiments. I want beef to dominate. But there are many times (most if I'm honest) where I want the flavours of the vegetables and bread to dominate. In that case a veggie burger is actually better than beef (hence the veggie burger with bacon).
Probably not that many people consciously agree with my idea that a vegetable dominant burger is desirable, but in fact there are tons of people (the majority, I think) who really like burgers very little meat flavour (i.e. the people eating big macs, etc) And if you give them a really good beef burger, they will drown it in sauce so you can no longer taste the beef. For those people, especially if you can give a price point under that of beef, they will very happily use it. And I think that category will definitely eat into the meat sales if there is a product they can accept.
Note that vegetarianism is not a Buddist concept or precept. It is a cultural adaptation in the Chinese version of Buddhism. In fact, vegetarianism was a red herring that the Buddha's jealous cousin used to try to split the sangha.
Hm... do non-vegetarians/vegans actually prefer these newer "meat texture" items over the classic veggie ones?
I've had from-scratch veggie burgers that I like at least as much, and there are certainly bigger brand names that I still like (Morningstar's black bean patty, IIRC, is one I really enjoyed). But the Impossible Burger isn't just going for "meat texture," it's going for meat flavor, and it's really a kind of different experience/target. So it's more of a "what am I in the mood for" thing than anything else.
I think I may have tried a meat imitation product once but didn't like it very much. I prefer sticky to the spicy, vegetarian food that I am used to :-)
Look, they don't care much about PR among consumers, they don't sell to them. But it is nice to be in the news for something positive for a change. PR within the food-supply industry, now that IS important, and this will certainly make news there, perhaps repositioning this company as a market pioneer. But the real reason they are adding plantburgers to their offerings is because purchasers, in virtually every industry, prefer (often mandated) to reduce the number of suppliers and consolidate orders. Maple Leaf wants to continue to provide one-stop shopping to its customers, it knows its meat orders are at risk if customers have to go elsewhere for these plantburgers. They obviously have seen more demand, or at least inquiries, and they are filling that need.
Actually they do - directly in the grocery store there is Maple Leaf branded meat.
Further they have PR commercials on all the time about how happy and healthy the farms are.
Your analysis is flat out wrong.
I'll bet that felt good to say.
If anything, the fact that Maple Leaf is a consumer brand (unlike US giants Cargill, National Beef, JBS) amplifies my point -- the positive PR can help position the company as an environmentally-conscious market leader in the minds of wholesale buyers AND individual consumers.
Since the original post, Maple Leaf's announcement was covered by publications such as Food & Drink International, GlobalMeatNews.com, FoodBev.com, Agribusiness Intelligence, just-food.com (these are the top results of a Google search of "maple leaf plant burger") -- in other words, trade publications, the exact types of industry news outlets I described. Or maybe you'll tell me I'm wrong again because you regularly peruse the pages of Global Meat News.
I don't see how your fact-check contradicts any substantial part of my post. Meat producers don't normally make news unless it is highly negative. The announcement signaled to purchasers -- wholesale or consumer -- that Maple Leaf can continue to be their preferred, single source of meat, and now, meat-ish products like a veggie burger.
Then what we have more closely resembles the following:
People looking for hope around every corner, unaware of just how desirable meat is in much of the (rapidly) developing world, might look at a move like this and conclude that this is a sign of a sea-change. Given that I was responding to someone who saw this in the same terms as the move from film to digital photography perhaps you can see what I meant.
As to expenses, this company is buying the meatless producers outright, no retooling required.
When lab grown meat becomes a thing, it will be possible to have ethical cannibalism. I expect it'll be really taboo at first, but over time I imagine that will change and before long people will be eating their favorite celebrities at restaurants and in TV dinners. Shit's about to get real weird in food culture.
The biggest myth, of course, is that India is a largely vegetarian country.
But that's not the case at all. Past "non-serious" estimates have suggested that more than a third of Indians ate vegetarian food.
If you go by three large-scale government surveys, 23%-37% of Indians are estimated to be vegetarian. By itself this is nothing remarkably revelatory.
But new research by US-based anthropologist Balmurli Natrajan and India-based economist Suraj Jacob, points to a heap of evidence that even these are inflated estimations because of "cultural and political pressures". So people under-report eating meat - particularly beef - and over-report eating vegetarian food.
Taking all this into account, say the researchers, only about 20% of Indians are actually vegetarian - much lower than common claims and stereotypes suggest.
Hindus, who make up 80% of the Indian population, are major meat-eaters. Even only a third of the privileged, upper-caste Indians are vegetarian.
The government data shows that vegetarian households have higher income and consumption - are more affluent than meat-eating households. The lower castes, Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) and tribes-people are mainly meat eaters.
Like the rest of the developing world, they’re eating more meat, not less. I’m not against people in developed nations cutting down on meat, especially if it’s an issue of ethical treatment of animals. The idea that Americans can make a serious dent in meat consumption by abstaining is a fantasy though. There is a vast and growing market for meat, and richer countries eating less over time will simply shift the market and slightly drop the price.
Much like buying an EV, putting down the burgers won’t save the world. There are still lots of good reasons to do these things, it’s just that averting climate change isn’t one of them unless you think billions of people around the world who are gaining more disposable income are inclined to listen to you. They’ll then have to patiently explain to you that in many cases their relatively lower meat consumption wasn’t a matter of taste or choice, but economic conditions.
Seriously, an unfortunate homonym (is it really a homonym? Kinda).
If fries cost $2, then the regular burger costs $4 and the impossible burger costs $10 or 2.5 times the cost of the regular burger. That suggest there's a lot of room for profit for both the company and the retailer.
But the key thing is that there's demand. And apparently there's a lot of it. They've created a new market with a new product and have shown there's a huge amount of demand for it.
I generally don't like veggies pretending to be meat, and I definitely don't want my veggies to bleed, but I did like the texture of the thing. Unfortunately it really only works with a ton of seasoning to mask the catfood taste.
Having had more than my share of bad veggie burgers, I've already eaten more than a dozen Impossible Burgers.
Arguably, the most famous examples include combined profits exceeding those of the product being cannibalized: iPhone vs iPad, or Netflix streaming vs Netflix DVD-by-mail. This would actually be expected, since any other sort of cannibization would constitute quite a bad managerial decision. If anything, errors seem to be made more often in the opposite direction: existing products tend to have a leg up in internal politics and therefore more likely to fall prey to external competition rather than internal cannibals. Plus the inherent risk of food born pathogens like mad cow making cannibalism inherently risky.
When adjusted for inflation, the entire digital camera market in 2017  was worth about 1/3 of that.
Even if Kodak was the biggest player in the digital camera market like they were with film, they would be worth less than half of what they were before.
Fujifilm managed to survive the end of film, but their stock price still hasn't recovered fully. Their imaging business made up 15% of their revenue in FY2017 
For me, I think the Impossible Burger seems "better" because I've only had it prepared by restaurants whereas the Beyond Burger I've mostly made myself from the grocery store.
People have made delicious meals without meat since society began, and they didn't rely on "tricking" people into thinking a meal is something else. It's baffling that the marketing department of Beyond and Impossible have turned standard food r&d into an environmental savior.
Tastes differ, of course, and everyone is entitled to theirs. My sense from two other vegetarian friends, though, is that they feel they're finally coming out of a food ghetto -- vegetarianism is no longer considered an annoying quirk that goes with hippie political beliefs and wearing socks in sandals, and the food has been lifted up into a new level of quality. It used to be that every restaurant's idea of a veggie burger was a portobello mushroom between two buns, and this is fortunately no longer true.
I myself went vegetarian a year ago, and aside from occasionally thinking about bacon or pepperoni, I really don't miss meat. Like my girlfriend, I'm now actually slightly grossed out by the burgers that bring too much of the meat experience; I tried the Beyond Burger recently and while it tasted okay, it was a bit creepy. We're a big fan of Field Roast's Field Burger, which doesn't bleed and indeed doesn't look like meat.
Based on my taste in food, I think if I wasn't vegetarian, I would probably eat a lot of meat -- so all the meat substitutes which have exploded in variety and availability has been a boon for me. It feels very "parallel universe" for me to hear that Carl's Jr and Whitecastle are selling premium veggie burgers now, I definitely had classified them as places I would never even consider eating at.
Classically farmed meat involves raising animals into captivity, rearing them in poverty, and sending them off for the slaughter. I'd feel less ethically corrupt if my burgers came from beans, not beef.
I stopped ordering them unless I’m somewhere very classy, because there’s a 50% of the cook screwing it up. Same for eggplant sandwiches. One too many slabs of raw eggplant.
There’s also no protein to speak of in a portobello. Half a gram, versus 20 grams in an impossible burger.
Fake meat creeps me out.
It's not to your taste, which is fine. There are meat-eaters that don't like seafood. Let's just be happy that there is now an ever-growing choice in the plant-based section of the supermarket.
Would these meatless products be considered "highly processed food" that should be limited?
For every pound of free range, organic fed, fair trade ground beef that gets sold at Whole Foods Walmart sells a truck load of house brand 80/20.
Plant based ground beef replacements are not going to have a measurable impact on the meat industry or environment until they can deliver almost the same experience as cheap ground beef at a lesser price.
I see no mention of price in this article which tells me price is not one of the strong suits of this product. While another choice of vegetarian beef is certainly a good thing for vegetarians and the Whole Foods crowd I don't see this product affecting everything at the macro level. Things will likely get cheaper over time but we do not appear at a tipping point yet.
It encourages people to eat minimal amount of meat and dairy products. Change is coming and it's good they are embracing it.
I don’t think people would have as much a problem eating a plant burger with insect protein supplements as they would eating straight crickets
Fried crickets are amazing. It’s natural to be squeamish but just like people were once scared of red tomatoes they’ll come around.
I haven't been able to find insect meat here yet but it's probably coming soon if you got it in the US now.
We do eat meat though, but only once or twice a week and almost never red meat anymore.
I have no qualms about eating anything and my comment is based purely on trying something new and actively enjoying in taste alone. I’d be more inclined to try something new if someone says it tastes good on its own accord vs “tastes just like X”.
The veggie burgers I talk about tastes nothing like meat and the texture is different, but they do not market it as meat replacement just a delicious veggie burger. The different ingredients are displayed on the package so it all looks very good too :)
I often find the "meat replacements" rather disgusting and I prefer to eat real meat over those.
I’m also not sure what role they fit in the kitchen. The marketing say they can go into smoothies, sauces, and chillies but I’m not sure what ingredient it’s replaxing. I’m gusssing it’s either the traditional meat or whey protein powder part?
Also apparently people with an allergy to shellfish and crusteseans can’t eat cricket powder, although I’m not sure how prevelant that condition is.
AFAIK, so far only cricket protein bars exist and they are sold at a huge premium ($4 vs $2) compared to whey protein based bars.
As a consumer, I'm just not interested in paying double for an alternative. Never mind that the alternative may not even taste as good.
It’s a veggie burger with bug proteins. Not just bugs.
Going straight to the source seems reasonable if it can be made to work.
If people like meat, bugs are a pretty good way to solve for that.
I sometimes think these plant-based burger outfits are doing themselves a disservice by trying to simulate a beef burger. At this point, the ground beef most people are accustomed to is not all that tasty.
As for taste vs healthy, well that's another, albeit related, issue. Food as a source of pleasure, as opposed to a source of nutrition for the body / mind, has distorted the consumption expections for the last 25 - 50 years. Too much salt, too much sugar, hyper-flavored foods designed to increased consumption are all status quo.
To me, the smart (startup) move would be to move beyond the confines (and baggage) of the burger, and become the sports drink of healthier eating.
Yes. Easier said than done. But being a cookie cutter is running into the competition storm.
It's still not organic however, which makes it significantly less appealing for me. Since Beyond and Impossible don't seem to be organic either, they all have the same "pedigree", FWIW.
The packaging ratio for Beyond has always bothered me too. I believe it's recyclable, but it seems like a lot of plastic and cardboard relative to the amount of food.
I'm still enthusiastic about the overall concept though.
I hate tastes like X concept. I don't care if doesn't taste like beef, it never works, our brain is way too smart to fall for this kind gimmicks.
Surprise me with new products, tell me whats in it straight up.
I really hope this "tastes like meat" trend dies.
Because most ppl have no idea of how any of those things actually taste. Its so easy to tell when flavor is artificial.
if this alternative has all of the same nutrition and taste and texture as real meat then i am switching
 one for one (cow burger vs plant burger) that is. Plant based diets can absolutely have the same net nutrition as a diet with animal products.
guess im eating steak tonite
Is "Canadian meat giant Maple Leaf debuts new plant-based burger" easier on the eyes? Or should proper nouns be wrapped in quotes when part of a headline?
I've attempted to reduce your eye strain above.
For many, this would not be an issue, as we may recognize Apple, Giant (grocer chain), or even Maple Leaf. I am not familiar with Maple Leaf so I had to do some parsing and a process of elimination to decide which words were more significant.
Canadian - I'm with you
Meat - Ok, Canadian meat!
Giant - I'm not sure here, is Giant a kind of Canadian meat?
Maple - huh... ?
Leaf - I'm really getting lost here
It isn't until I get to the "Burger" that I'm starting to realize we're talking about a "meat giant" company and that company is named "Maple Leaf." I get that if you know all companies in all countries, you probably recognize Maple Leaf, but I had not heard of them before, so it took some logic to interpret a sentence that, in my opinion, should be understandable the first time you read it, without making assumptions (or having explicit knowledge about a specific company.) If only "Maple Leaf" was capitalized, it would've been instantly recognized as a company name, and the "meat giant" descriptor would've been logical.
That's not really how language rules work. I agree that it's confusing, but we have more confusing things in the English language that we aren't going to change either.
Carbs : 0 g
Fat : 10 g
Protein : 17 g
Carbs : 11 g
Fat : 2.5 g
Protein : 10 g
Nope, not a substitute.
Apparently that is for a different veggie burger from the same company. Not sure where to get the info for the one under discussion here.
However, https://www.lightlifenews.com/ as of the time of writing (https://web.archive.org/web/20190124100505/https://www.light...) writes: "The Lightlife Burger has 20 grams of pea protein, 0 grams of cholesterol, and only 2.5 grams of saturated fat in a quarter-pound patty, compared to 80 grams of cholesterol and 9.3 grams of saturated fat in a quarter-pound patty made from traditional beef."
The 9.3 grams of saturated fat are a good match for your figure of 10 grams of fat, though note that they do qualify it as "saturated" and don't give figures for total fat or carbs. Bummer.
If you care about the environment, this is the worst news. You essentially have to farm one plant ( either grain or corn or soy ) to feed livestock for your burger. How many different types of plants have to be planted to produce a single burger? And of course, most of those plants can't be raised in frigid canada so they'll have to destroy the environment elsewhere.
Not to mention plants are nutrient deficient and as a result people have to eat far more of it which means more farms and more environmental destruction. Ever wonder why grazing animals have to eat constantly?
It's amazing how PR has convinced people that industrial farming is actually good for the environment and animals. I guess if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.
And many vegetables are fertilized with blood meal, which comes from animals...
Perhaps a more nuanced view is needed...
That link talks about Allan Savory's work. Savory has a reeeally well-done, convincing-sounding TED talk about this. But unfortunately it looks like many people who know a lot more about this than I do disagree with pretty much everything he says: https://slate.com/human-interest/2013/04/allan-savorys-ted-t...
Also, even if keeping livestock is a good idea in some environments, that doesn't mean that farming livestock elsewhere is a similarly good idea.
Manure is used because it is readily available due to current livestock production, not because it's the only way to fertilize soil.
- subtext that you missed is yu can't achieve the crop density with organic farming methods
~90% of the calories a species takes in get lost going up the food chain. You need to grow ~1000 calories of plants to make 100 calories of beef.
>Not to mention plants are nutrient deficient and as a result people have to eat far more of it
Source? Also, what specific nutrients are you referring to? Where do you think the energy and minerals an animal has come from?
>The most environmentally friendly method for humans would be the "hunter gatherer" diet ( wild vegetation and wild animals ). But we might be too populous for that to work.
Modern agriculture is hands down more efficient. You know this, because you know that it can support more people. By extension, modern agriculture with a small population is more environmentally friendly than "hunter gatherer" with a small population.
>You essentially have to farm one plant to feed livestock for your burger. How many different types of plants have to be planted to produce a single burger?
More variety but far far far less total quantity. And monoculture farming is much more destructive than farming a variety of plants. There's a reason that farmers rotate corn and soy, even when growing animal feed.
I'm also not sure your "modern agriculture" point stands -- are industrial farming methods sustainable over the long scale?
Think about America pre-colonization: a continent filled with ruminants happily munching away, being hunted at sustainable levels. To my mind that is peak sustainability and environmental friendliness.
Whereas a huge environmental problem we have right now is soil depletion, which is largely driven by agriculture.
Cows could actually help solve this problem, because their manure contributes to the health of the soil.
It's far from obvious that a veggie burger would be healthier for the environment than eating cows.
(Disclaimer: haven't watched the ted talk, but familiar with the ideas and seemed like a good summary to link to.)
That's with a population of on the order of 10 million for the entire continent:
Naturally grazing cows wouldn't even come close to sustaining the current demand for meat. Industrialized animal agriculture exists for a reason.
Though I agree, it's probably not a reasonable primary food for most people at current population levels.
The TED talk is really good and sounds convincing, but in the end it's a bunch of pretty pictures going against what appears to be scientific consensus.
There’s no such thing as a beef-eating environmentalist.
Slate’s coverage of food systems is made possible in part by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Anyway, I think it's fair to at least say the topic is debated.
(Also, I wouldn't recommend being too overly swayed by "scientific consensus": scientists are just people, who are mostly sheep; lots of scientific consensuses turn out to be wrong. I'm reminded of the Feynman quote:
–Have no respect whatsoever for authority; forget who said it and instead look what he starts with, where he ends up, and ask yourself, "Is it reasonable?")
Cows also produce a massive amount of methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas, and they're not very efficient converters of plants into grass.
It is therefore well established that beef production is the least efficient and environmentally friendly form of meat production.
Re GHGs, you have to weigh the methane against the carbon sequestration the cows promote.
These guys are working with local (to me) farms to study and enhance that:
It also just doesn't seem to me, on a gut level, that having 90 million cows in the US is our main problem (especially compared to historical levels of 20 million bison). I think we should be much more focussed on the 20 million barrels of oil a day we're burning through (compared to historical levels of basically 0).
We've killed most of the sizable animals on the planet. We really absolutely have. No question. Passenger pigeon flocks, billions of fish, vast populations of whales and bison and all the major megafauna we wiped out.
That's a holocaust of farting biomass. Complete slaughter. There's no way that our beef herds offset the megafauna that were here before the landbridge migration to North America when it comes to methane.
I haven't heard something genuinely new in this debate for a long time. Thank you.