The debate surrounding what should be considered meat — and what isn’t — continues to spark conversation across the food industry.
What are plant-based burgers, such as the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat, actually made of?
Dr. Frank Mitloehner, professor at the University of California-Davis, was a guest on AgriTalk last week where he shared about his recent discussion comparing the ingredients of plant-based meat alternatives to high-end dog food.
“When you look at Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat, they have 21 or 22 highly processed ingredients. So processed, that you are hard pressed in identifying the difference between those items, versus let’s say, pet food.”
Mitloehner explained to AgriTalk host Chip Flory that this is something that many consumers aren’t aware of, and when given the opportunity, aren’t able to distinguish the difference between the burgers and dog food. Mitloehner took to Twitter to further this point.
“Within 24 hours, I had 100,000 people trying to answer that trivia question as to which one of the three is the dog food. The vast majority of the people had it wrong. I find that very interesting,” he says.
Trivia quiz: following are the ingredients of three food/feed items. Two of them are fake burgers (namely @ImpossibleFoods burger and @BeyondMeat burger, respectively) and the third is premium dog food. Can you pick the latter? pic.twitter.com/uqzWIkxpQ7
— Frank Mitloehner (@GHGGuru) June 27, 2019
“I didn’t mean to be facetious with that. I just wanted to point out, what nature of the food really is that they are producing. And how indistinguishable it is from dog food.”
Mitloehner said the Twitter poll and further research was sparked from a conversation a few years back, with Patrick Brown, founder of Impossible Foods, at the National Academy of Sciences event. At the event, Brown confessed to eating dog food, while calling the ingredients ‘wholesome.’
“I thought he was joking, until I did a little research and compared his burger versus Beyond Burger versus dog food. And guess what? I would not be able to tell the difference,” he notes. “Which is just testament to me that they are actually making something that from a nutritional basis might not be very different from dog food. Then adding the flavours, and the taste, and the smell and, voila, there is your plant-based alternative to the real thing.”
Mitloehner also made a point to acknowledge in his conversation with Flory that it isn’t the alternative foods he has a problem with, it’s how they are marketed.
“I don’t want to be misunderstood. People are saying I don’t like alternatives. If people want to eat it, eat it. What I have a beef with is he makes his business on the backs of our farmers. And he publicly describes the beef sector as filthy, as inhumane, as unsafe, and that is just intentionally misleading. That’s the problem I have.”