Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Canadian meat giant Maple Leaf debuts new plant-based burger (bloomberg.com)
221 points by JumpCrisscross 26 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 173 comments

Very encouraging news for our environment to see a meat producer actively debut a non-meat product that will actively take away from meat sales. Reminds me of Kodak. Where Kodak did not embrace digital early enough, and then many years later was bankrupt.

Very encouraging news for our environment to see a meat producer actively debut a non-meat product that will actively take away from meat sales. Reminds me of Kodak. Where Kodak did not embrace digital early enough, and then many years later was bankrupt.

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.

As a meat eater, I would absolutely replace some of the meats I buy with meatless products if I liked them.

As a consumer, I would absolutely replace some of the consumables I buy with perfect substitutes if I liked them.

This is exactly what economists assume.

"If I liked them" is a much lower bar than "perfect substitute".

And there's possibly an "even if they were more expensive" dimension to such a claim too.

I'll give you that, but if you look at the price of Beyond Burgers and a gourmet burger at the grocery store, they are equivalent. Also to your parent, likeability is orthogonal to being a substitute. You may much prefer Ferrari (or even horse for that matter) to your Toyota, that doesn't mean you would replace it.

The economic definition of a perfect substitute is less about the literal definition of the phrase, but more about the way in which OP substituted it in (ha!)

There are already quite a lot of decidedly decent meat substitutes on the market. They often don't taste much like the meat they are imitating, but are flavorful in their own right. Morningstar Farms in particular has a pretty large selection of burger patties.

I don't think it at all fanciful, or just about PR. More about future proofing, or to use a cliche, hard headed business.

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.

> 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.

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.

> According to the math, if the entire country went 100% vegan it would cut emissions by 2-3%.

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.


> I would love to see something, anything that validates that claim as it is wildly at odds with everything I have seen.

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.


Interesting your first article also links to studies estimating much more CO2 stems from animal agriculture.

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.

Those are a lot of assumptions you're making. Why don't you link to something that you've based what you're saying on. I have provided some justification for everything I've said and you're just blustering on.

No assumptions, it's in the paper you linked. They are basing on all land currently used for livestock farming being converted to human food crops. As the article itself notes that results in a significant over production of food: "The sheer amount of food we had available to eat increased by 23%."

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 doubt PR is what they're after, since they're selling it under a brand that has long sold faux meats, which they just acquired last year. People won't know the connection unless they read the business news.

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.

First, the people most likely to buy meatless products weren’t part of their existing customer base, so there is no cannibalization.

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'd also disagree with

- People who want meatless products aren't buying meat so they're an expansion opportunity. I think that's a fair assessment.

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 agree about the "desire" to eat meat-like products with the vegetarian/vegan set. None of my vegetarian/vegan are into the fake meats at all. Most don't even try it once.

I think the market for this type of fake meat are meat eaters with an environmental awareness.

I'm pretty sure the market for this product is meat eaters (vegetarians too, but less of them) trying to serve burgers to a group of people that includes vegetarians.

As a sample size of 1, I love meat but I know that it is environmentally pretty disastrous. I'm waiting avidly for impossible burger-type meat substitutes to be available so I cam shift my consumption, and some of my family consumption.

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.

Also a sample size of 1, but I'm the exact type of vegetarian you're describing (don't like meat because of flavor and texture) and probably get served half a dozen fake burgers a year. It's usually (not always) in settings where a large number of people are being served food. Think "union barbecue" not "dinner party".

I like veggie burgers from time to time. It's not so much about the meat but ketchup with mayonnaise, onions and pickles on a roll feels very satisfying to me. But in general I am also not much into meat like products.

Agreed - also, both environmental awareness and nutritional/health awareness can justify eating less meat than the typical Canadian, American, German, Argentine, Brazilian, etc.

That's an interesting point. I was vegetarian/vegan for a long time (decades). Err, I say it that way because it is easier for people to get a vague understanding of how I ate, but in reality I just really like vegetables and like cooking with them. There was a comedy sketch on the radio in Canada one time about someone who would order a veggie burger with bacon and I was kind of like that (bacon is delicious).

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.

A case in point to what you're saying, I think: Greggs - a UK chain - recently started selling vegan sausage rolls, and I think the reaction demonstrated that their sausage rolls are really pastry with something with meat-like texture in it. It got a massively positive reception. Though certainly in part due to a fantastic social media effort. But the social media effort got people to try it - the positive response afterwards was in large part due to the product, and the product only works because nobody is buying a Greggs sausage roll expecting a strong taste of meat; just a texture that says "filling" and flavorings associated with meat rather than something something sweet. And so the quorn based filling was close enough (I've tried quorn, I didn't really like it, because I bought it as a meat substitute, and properly prepared, it's close, but not close enough when you want meat taste).

Disagree about GF bread. I have celiac disease and enjoy many varieties of GF bread and other products. In fact I take people to a completely gluten free restaurant and they almost never know anything is different. A lot has changed since the gluten free fad started that has benefitted celiacs.

This is a bit odd but my wife is being tested for this now due to her frequent migraines - when it was wheat gluten only pure rye breads were working pretty well but she's been reacting to that as well... do you have advice on particular brands or offerings?

Interesting... she has no issues with weight loss or GI issues, but gets migraines? Is this bread she’s eating, rye or otherwise, a brand name or is it made in a local bakery? If it’s the latter she might be reacting, not to gluten, but the yeast. Some people with migraines find that tyrosine is a potent trigger, and yeast is a rich source of tyrosine. Especially if the bread is sourdough, as opposed to off-the shelf white or wheat, you’d potentially see a difference

We switched over to off-the-shelf sourdough a bit ago, I'll pass this on to her and after this round of trials is over I may try baking a loaf of windowsill sourdough myself with more control over the inputs. The coarse rye bread we've been able to find is supposed to be "leavened with natural starters and little to no yeast" but there is wiggle room in their language.


My pleasure, and good luck.

GF products have come a long way. I recall the state of things 15 or so years ago when my mother was first diagnosed with celiac's and it was really awful.

This might be true (to some degree) for the recent trend of Western vegetarians, but meat substitutes have a long tradition (over a thousand years) in East Asia due to Buddhist tradition.

Although not many Thais are vegetarians, many do participate in the annual vegetarian festival which comes from Chinese Buddhist tradition. And it is all meat substitutes. There doesn't seem to be much awareness of how to get high quality protein by combining vegetables that contain complementing amino acids. So it's all tofu.

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.

> 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

Hm... do non-vegetarians/vegans actually prefer these newer "meat texture" items over the classic veggie ones?

Well, as a non-vegetarian, I really like the Impossible Burger, and definitely prefer it to any of the mass-market veggie burgers that are out there like GardenBurger® and friends.

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 have been a life-long vegetarian. Since, I never used to eat meat, I don't have a meat craving which people sometimes do when leaving meat behind.

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 :-)

I'd say "yes". I tried an impossible burger. It does a pretty good job of imitating meat in a way that my Morninstar and TJ's quinoa and bean burgers don't. However, I don't think I'd choose the fake "meat-like" stuff over the real, if given a choice. (I try to only eat red meat a couple times/month, though, so it's pretty much a treat for me.)

The reason I asked is I tried these meat imitations too and I felt I liked some (thought most definitely not all) of the usual soy-based kinds more. Sadly I forget what exactly it was but if I remember correctly MorningStar has been one of the ones I've liked better. So I'm wondering what the actual data on this is like.

Just realized that I also not eating my meat-substitute burgers to not eat meat, but to eat more veggies and cut down on that stuff in my diet. Which is probably why I still eat meat. If only a small amount per week (compared to typical SAD diet).

Well, it's just a very personal anecdote here, but I am a non-vegetarian who vastly prefers vegetarian hamburgers to real ones. Because I do try to limit my meat consumption, both for health and for ethical reasons. I also feel "safer" buying and eating stuff that is plant based, for some reason. I think that a lot of people would rather go for the fake option most of the times if the taste and texture were convincing enough.

I was asking about the meat-imitation vegetarian ones vs. the classic vegetarian ones. I wasn't asking about normal meat-based ones.

An uncanny valley effect, perhaps.

Not being able to "parse" the above comment is on you, not its author. When else have you heard the goings-on at Maple Leaf Meat Co? That's right, never. Further, in what other context has someone expressed "very encouraging" (the grandparent) about a meat producer? Exceptionally rare, the only news meat producers make is as the cause of some environmental, labor, or health disaster.

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.

> Look, they don't care much about PR among consumers, they don't sell to them.

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.

> 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.

Given that that the desires and wishes I referred to are, even by the standards of a truly cynical person, ultimately altruistic I’m going to disagree with your characterization of what I said as boiling down to “self centered.” I would rather say, blinded by hope or a desperate desire to see environmental catastrophe averted, which has a very different character from what people tend to mean by self-centered.

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.

> I'd like to suggest that the term "cannibalization" should be used gently when applied to a meat company.

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.

I don't know. There are environmental and ethical issues with the current animal agricultural practices so as it becomes easier to be vegetarian more people will switch. I think it's a long way off being truly mainstream but the easier it becomes to switch the more people will. Also meat eaters will still get these sometimes if they are good.

It's actually quite mainstream in some places in the world -- not only places that have been that way for a long time like large parts of India, but a large fraction of college students in Germany are vegetarian or vegan.

India is not a monolith, it’s more than a billion incredibly diverse people, the majority of whom are neither vegan nor vegetarian.


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.

Could you provide a citation for your global trends comment?

I think it’s best to leave cannibalisation out of this discussion.

Seriously, an unfortunate homonym (is it really a homonym? Kinda).

It's an unfortunate metaphor.

How does the meatless meat production costs compare to meat products? Their retail price is higher, so they may be increasing their profits in the process, not cannibalizing it.

So the local diner sells an impossible burger on the menu along with a regular burger. The burger with fries is $5.99. The comparable impossible burger with fries is $11.99

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.

Most of the places I know of selling Impossible Burgers used to sell a veggie burger. Looks like an incremental improvement to me.

In San Francisco the Impossible Burger is being sold at places that did not sell veggie burgers (e.g. Gott's at the Ferry Building).

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.

I'd be interested if you'd be willing to do a blind taste test between just a plain patty from McD's, BK, Shake Shack, and Impossible. Because this has not been my experience at all.

Back in the 1990's Denny's once had a veggie burger on their menu and they sold a total of 2 dozen I think nationwide. That's how bad veggie burgers were once though of.

Having had more than my share of bad veggie burgers, I've already eaten more than a dozen Impossible Burgers.

I like the Impossible Burger, but I will not order a veggie burger.

“Cannibalizing” only requires a new product to grow at the expense of an older one. Total revenue and profit can be lower, higher, or net neutral.

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.

I'm sure this is partially due to (lack of) scale and equal parts lack of competition.

They’ve got product development costs to recoup.

Kodak was worth 31 billion USD in 1997.

When adjusted for inflation, the entire digital camera market in 2017 [0] 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 [1]

[0] https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180528005328/en/Dig...

[1] https://www.fujifilmholdings.com/en/pdf/investors/other/ff_p...

You're comparing a valuation to the size of a market. Those things don't compare.

Think this is comparable to the oil companies being some of the biggest investors in renewable energy. It improves the diversification of their unsustainable business and gives them some Corporate Social Responsibility points as well

Semi-related, but the Beyond Meat burger at Canadian fast-food chain A&W has been a big hit too, it seems. I got one at a mall recently and was amazed that everyone in line at the time was there to try the beyond meat burger. There’s a serious appetite for this stuff so I’m glad to see a big meat company paying attention.

You should give the Impossible Burger a try as well, it's even more meat-like and has a great taste. Both burgers recently announced 2.0 versions of their products so there's a lot of excitement in the field of plant-based meat.

Yes, I've tried Impossible too at a couple of places and am a fan. My favorite was Umami Burger's Korean-style toppings.

I actually much prefer the Beyond Burger. Maybe it was cooked wrong, but the Impossible Burger I tried tasted a lot like a Morningstar Farm's Griller's Prime to me. Not a bad flavor mind you, just not worth the $3 surcharge.

Agreed, I think the way its prepared definitely matters.

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.

I tried it and it tasted quite good. Glad to see more options coming!

As a long time flexitarian (I hate that phrase too), I just roll my eyes at all of these "non-meat initiatives". Impossible and Beyond burgers don't hold a candle to a classic portobello burger.

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.

My vegetarian (since her early teens) girlfriend rolls her eyes at portobello burgers and positively praises the gods that there are now brands like Field Roast and Impossible Burger.

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.

I will second that as someone who has been vegetarian their whole life. I do feel like vegetarian (and especially vegan) food has steadily become more popular, and "coming out of the food ghetto" is a great way to describe it.

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.

I’m a new vegan and occasionally miss getting a good ol hamburger. Recently I went to Carl’s Jr. and picked up a Beyond Burger with fries. It’s a super unhealthy meal, but it’s nice to know I can go get fast food if I want to. That said, today I had a traditional veggie burger and it was delicious. I wouldn’t normally want the meat alternatives, but I’m super happy I have the option. If they started carrying the fake chicken nuggets I’d be in total heaven.

Disregard the environment and think about the ethics ...

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.

How many different places have you had a portobello burger at? When done right (marinated and cooked thoroughly with a little char) they are delicious. But a LOT of places just throw a raw portobello on the grill and give you something rubbery and bland. You bite it and the entire thing tries to slide out of the bun, it tastes like nothing, and has the texture of gristle.

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.

You're getting downvoted, but I agree. Portabello, black-bean patties, beet patties, shredded squash... there are lots of awesome sandwich friendly vegetarian options which don't pretend to be meat.

Well, the thing is they make it easy to find a main course. Without all the vegetarian and vegan products you would have to sort through the products that aren't explicitly marked that way to get a guess about which ones contain meat. Plus they taste good to me. I'm not looking for something that "tastes like meat" lol. As though I am just dying for meat. Nope, I'm quite fine actually.

I personally find portobello burgers disgusting, and I'm sure I'm not alone. There's also almost no protein in mushrooms.

what about those of us that hate mushrooms?

All the black-bean and beet burgers in town have been replaced by these things. Sometimes I feel like the only vegetarian who hates fake meat and wants recognizeable veggie products.

Fake meat creeps me out.

Fake meat is for the omnivores, not the vegetarians.

It might be a far stretch to say that they've been "replaced". At least in my area the traditional vegetarian options are still there alongside these newer items.

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.

Three of the restaurants I most frequently went to have switched away. There are still other places with black bean burgers, but it feels like replacement given my restaurant preferences.

I suspect the timing deliberately lines up with the launch of the new Canadian food guide yesterday. https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/

Exactly this. Now they recommend “protein foods”. Not related to this story but even the glass of juice is recommended to be replaced with a glass of water (and eating whole fruits and vegetables). Maple Leaf is doing the right thing to prepare to adapt quickly.

This is interesting. One of the recommendations are to "Limit highly processed foods. If you choose these foods, eat them less often and in small amounts."

Would these meatless products be considered "highly processed food" that should be limited?

Everyone here is talking about taste, quality, and all the other things office workers making six figures base their purchasing decisions on

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.

You people not in Canada, Canada has a new food guide:


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 see anywhere that it recommends eating "minimal amount of meat and dairy products". In fact, if you click on the "eat protein foods" part, it specifically recommends lean beef, pork, and poultry as well as milk and yogurt.

But that is a very small part of the whole meal. Look at the picture, you see very less meat and more nuts, beans etc

Honestly, if it's as tasty and protein-filled as a normal burger, sign me up. I enjoy meat for the taste and because of my nutritional goals, so if it can be nutritionally better and as tasty, there's no contest.

It seems to me that insect meat is the way to go taste, nutrition, and cost wise. But people are adverse to eating bugs. To me this seems to be a branding problem. One of the plant based burger producers should advertise that their food is supplemented with natural proteins and lipids, then stuff their plant burgers with ground up crickets or meal worms or whatever.

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

I think the challenge is that a significant portion of the non-mammal meat eating population has a moral objection to eating living things, even insects. Given their roles are early adopters of these kinds of products it seems unlikely that kind of solution would get far.

What they really need to do is stop pushing fake meat as “like beef” and start pushing it as delicious on its own.

Fried crickets are amazing. It’s natural to be squeamish but just like people were once scared of red tomatoes they’ll come around.

They started doing that in Norway with some of the veggie burgers and they are delicious. I don't think I've had a meat burger in two years.

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 eat it all. Red meat, white meat, fish, you name it. If it’s not going to kill me I’ll try it and if it tastes good I’ll likely try it again.

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”.

Oh yeah, I completely agree on the "tastes like X" thing.

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.

As major !meat firms start scaling up, I hope it expands rapidly like the milk-alternative industry. Embrace the source. Exciting times

I’ve seen those ground cricket protein powder replacements at the grocery store but they always seem so expensive. Would it be economical to include that admin part of the buffer?

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.

Show me an insect burger that costs the same as a beef burger and I'll gladly buy it. Alternatively - cut subsidies to meat producers, which will raise prices for animal meat, so the insect burger can be competitive.

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.

I'd note that whey protein is from milk, not meat. It's often separated in the cheese making process.

Until a single article describes the actual contents and there is massive public outcry about what corporations are hiding in our food

To be fair, we’re already eating ground crickets and roaches in our food, along with rat feces and other stuff. Personally having eaten insects my problem with them is the taste and texture, but I feel the same way about bologna and hog dogs. On that note, if people are willing to eat what’s in hot dogs and Slim Jim’s, ground crickets would be a huge improvement. Mechanically separated meat is... awful. If all I’m going to taste anyway is chemical preservatives and flavoring, I’d rather eat mashed crickets than pig anus and eyeballs.

Wouldn't people eventually look at the ingredients though? They will just find out about crickets there...

Perhaps I overembellished. I’m not suggesting outright hiding the insects, I’m suggesting reframing them as a supplement rather than the main substance.

It’s a veggie burger with bug proteins. Not just bugs.

Insects have to eat something too. And some insects are carnivorous. So you would be inserting multiple layers into the food chain with all the associated efficiency losses and increases in carbon footprint.

Going straight to the source seems reasonable if it can be made to work.

You’re not wrong, but it’s worth getting a sense of scale. Farming insects uses about 90% less land than beef, and similarly large savings in water and feed.

If people like meat, bugs are a pretty good way to solve for that.

I agree. I'd much rather eat that tbh. I'm not terribly fond of eating wheat or soy protein.

Insect meat is still less efficient than just eating plants for protein.

> “Consumers may realize the product is healthier for them and their family, but when it boils down to it they’re probably going to go with the thing that tastes better or they’re more familiar with,” said Billy Roberts, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. But manufacturers such as Lightlife are targeting younger consumers, he said, who are more likely to try new products they see as healthier.

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.

> its non-GMO, soy-free, gluten-free pedigree may give it a leg up on its competitors

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.

But it's a good proof of concept of the technology which could easily be remade into an organic version. And the cheaper price afforded by not using organic practices might help speed up adoption to a point where organic versions could become more cost-efficient.

I'd agree to a point, but it might be even more difficult to make the shift once the supply chain and pricing settles into place, particularly for restaurants that are already taking a risk on this as a new category.

Meat substitutes are the best for infrequent cooking. Chick’n by Tofurkey for example tastes pretty similar to chicken except it pan fries in minutes and lasts in the fridge for months. I think burgers miss the mark because hamburger buns don’t keep but definitely excited by more innovation.

I love meat but I would not mind having a healthy and good tasting alternative hopefully available at a reasonable price (eventually). great news

> meant to be more like beef

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.

"Uncanny valley" is the effect at work, likely. But about your point on the brain not falling for it... there is evidence that it can be done for foods. Just take a look at how many drinks and sweets contain artificial flavors.

> Just take a look at how many drinks and sweets contain artificial flavors.

Because most ppl have no idea of how any of those things actually taste. Its so easy to tell when flavor is artificial.

Right, I don't want to buy my tofu/falafel/soy/whatever product in sausage-shape with artificial bacon flavour marketed like a nicotine patch.

when i saw animals being mistreated it made me feel sick for eating meat.

if this alternative has all of the same nutrition and taste and texture as real meat then i am switching

Sometimes it won't have the same taste, texture and nutrition [1] - but it's still worth switching.

[1] 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.

if it's not 1:1 to meat then forgettaboutit

guess im eating steak tonite

Are you being sarcastic?

Off Topic: another example of egregious capitalization!

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?

The headline is correctly capitalized according to common rules. There are websites where you can try different title capitalization styles, for example here: https://capitalizemytitle.com/

All the other answers point about the rules of the english language and the correctness of the title, but nobody talks about the issue in itself. I think the title IS confusing at first glance.

The suggestion was that this is egregious overcapitalization and it just isn't.

It's called titlecase and common in many publications.


It's typical in English titles and codified as standard in widely-adopted style guides used by publications.

On HN we don't have a rule about that, but we do try to make titles internally consistent.

I've attempted to reduce your eye strain above.

Awesome! Part of me would want us to adhere to some kind of literary guideline, but mostly we want to communicate effectively. When a bunch of ordinary nouns appear in a row with the same capitalization, instinctually the interpretation is to assume all or none are part of a proper noun.

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.

Is English not your first language? Titles are supposed to be capitalized

Canadian English is not my first language! "Meat", "Giant", "Maple" and "Leaf" can all be nouns, and some of them can be adjectives. With everything in that sentence being flexible words, and "maple leaf" not standing out, you can't parse that sentence in order.

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.

I understand your confusion, but titles are capitalized in the English language so I don't know what to say. It's not the most confusing rule we have at least

This is a headline, not a proper noun. Regardless of 'supposed to', it shouldn't be capitalized. There is no advantage to capitalizing, it, but it does lead to confusion.

> Regardless of 'supposed to', it shouldn't be capitalized

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.

Ah, a veggie burger. Truly a paradigm-shifting innovation.

No thanks. I suspect that the mass scale conversion from meat to plant based substitutes will go as well as our conversion to seed oils in the late 20th century: poorly.

Normal Burger:

  Carbs   : 0 g
  Fat     : 10 g
  Protein : 17 g

"Lightlife Burger":

  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.

You’re not comparing to the product mentioned in the article which clearly shows 20g protein in the image.

Thanks. I am not sure where to find the nutritional info for this then.

I don't think the nutritional info is available online, as they are just announcing the product and it's not for sale yet.

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.

It's terrible news for the environment. In terms of environmental harm, vegetable farming is easily the most environmentally damaging human endeavor. The distant second is raising livestock. 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.

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.

I want a source for that outrageous claim that the most environmentally damaging human endeavor is growing vegetables. I suspect you being right would turn the world on its head.

Not the GP, and I don't have any conclusions in this matter - but I don't think we can outright dismiss the role of livestock in maintaining a healthy environment. For example:


And many vegetables are fertilized with blood meal, which comes from animals...

Perhaps a more nuanced view is needed...

> https://ourworld.unu.edu/en/reversing-desertification-with-l...

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.

How many extra plants would you have to grow and use as fertilizer on plants if you didn't have animal fertilizer? Or do you want to rely on non organic farming methods for your plant only ethics based utopia?

I think you missed that plant-based fertilization exists. How do you think the nitrogen, sulfur and phosphor got into the animals in the first place?

Manure is used because it is readily available due to current livestock production, not because it's the only way to fertilize soil.

I see you didn't actually read the comment.

Fertilization > fertilizer. What I meant were practices like e.g. planting mustard and plowing it under between seasons.

Yes, that's going to feed 9 billion people!

How many extra plants would you have to grow and use as fertilizer on plants if you didn't have animal fertilizer? Or do you want to rely on non organic farming methods for your plant only ethics based utopia?

- subtext that you missed is yu can't achieve the crop density with organic farming methods

You didn't break any of HN rules, and yet people downvoted you. It goes to show HN's vegan-bias!

I'm amazed someone can be so hilariously wrong.

~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.

Cows eat grass, which is just out there, growing naturally. Those aren't calories humans could be consuming; we don't have the right kind of stomaches. You can view a cow as machine for extracting the nutrients in grass into a dense, human-digestible form. Pretty cool.

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.)

Maybe it would be better to say "cows would eat grass" but unfortunately >90% of beef comes from cows who don't, and are raised on feed[1].

1: https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevebanker/2016/01/29/the-gras...

I think it'd probably be good to stop feeding grain to cows, but even "grain-fed" cows eat grass (or hay) most of their lives -- it's at the end when they're sent to the feed lots to fatten them up that they eat grain.

"you don't need to grow vast quantities of grain to raise cows, just to increase their biomass enough to feed large quantities of people"

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.

That's with a population of on the order of 10 million for the entire continent: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_history_of_indigeno...

Naturally grazing cows wouldn't even come close to sustaining the current demand for meat. Industrialized animal agriculture exists for a reason.

Not to mention that that 10 million count includes many tribes/societies based around fishing, and an entire civilization based around farming sustainably:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cahokia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Sisters_(agriculture)

That's fair, but still, my point is raising beef is not intrinsically unsustainable and destructive.

Though I agree, it's probably not a reasonable primary food for most people at current population levels.

Yeah it might make sense to do on a controlled scale in the right climates, but it wouldn’t even come close to meeting current demands. People would have to get used to eating meat a few times a week.

I just posted this in a cousin comment, but a whole lot of experts disagree with Savory's claims: https://slate.com/human-interest/2013/04/allan-savorys-ted-t...

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.

It doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong, but the tone of the piece and the fact that it's funded by Kellog's is certainly at least eye-brow raising:

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 eat grass which grows on land which used to have rainforest on it but which has been cleared, wiping out thousands of species, to make more cows. (Okay not all cows, but rainforest clearance for pastureland is a big problem where there are or used to be rainforests).

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.

Yes, it's bad to cut down rainforests to raise beef, just like it's bad to cut down rainforests to make palm oil. That's not really a knock against raising cows in natural grassland, though.

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).

Shoot. Wait wait wait. That's a really excellent point. What?

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.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact