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Is Fake Meat Fake News?

Is Fake Meat Fake News?

Towards the end of last year, it appeared the latest fake meat brands in stores, namely “Beyond Meat” and “Impossible Foods” were on the decline. Beyond Meat is the biggest in the industry and by the end of last year they cut 200 jobs. At the start of 2023, it seems Beyond Meat has minimalized its losses, with shares going up 33% this week.Market shares aside, there are multiple reasons to keep an eye on if these fake meat brands make it. Despite their happy greenwashed packaging, it doesn’t look like the fake meat majors are out to reduce environmental waste but more focused on making meat blend in McNuggets even faker than it already is.

First of all, the product is sketchy at best. Both CEOs of Whole Foods and Chipotle have called the brands too processed. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat both started around 2011 with similar grandiose vision statements. Unlike tofu burger makers of the ‘90s, Impossible pledged to upend the meat industry by making a healthier burger that’s better than meat. Beyond Meat continues to push that if everyone switched to their product it could basically save the planet.

However, both brands have highly processed, basically lab-grown substances in their products. For example, Impossible Foods uses a soy-based substance called “heme” to make their patties “bleed” which initially the FDA rejected, but eventually approved. Impossible was also one of the first packages to use a “Bioengineered” label on its package – meaning it’s proudly packing GMOs. Heme has never been consumed before, there has been zero testing for its safety. The health issues with fake meats are a long, long list through the decade since they were both founded. Then there’s the salacious side of this burgeoning “bioengineered” food space. This week the founder of Impossible Foods retorted to a Bloomberg article calling fake meat a fad. At the end of last year Impossible Foods brought on Chobani COO to helm the brand as CEO. 

The Beyond Meat COO was fired at the end of 2022 after being arrested for biting another man’s nose in a road rage incident. Also late in 2022, a disgruntled employee leaked photos and documents of a mold-infested manufacturing food facility. When it comes to mold around food, mold takes a while to grow which indicates dirty conditions that were ignored. Listeria had also been found at the facility. Both companies are finding more success in selling fake meat to fast food chains (McDonald's, Wendy’s, etc) that are already using mostly lab-grown food. However, there’s backlash. The McDonald’s meatless burger trial ended without an answer if it will be implemented.

When Cracker Barrel tried a meatless “Impossible Sausage” its Facebook page received comments like, “Go woke, go broke,” one wrote. “You just lost a ton of your base. You obviously don’t know your patrons.” Anyone who is health aware enough to avoid fake meat as a highly-processed GMO isn’t a customer, but fast food chains that love processed GMOs aren’t finding success in their customer base. Both brands are struggling to reach customers in grocery stores who would rather get protein from actual food but will rely on fast food chains can market their products on a mass scale. If they succeed, it could be next-level in lab food.

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