Why a plant-based cheeseburger could be paradise for private brands

Lawrence Aylward
Editor In Chief
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"Cheeseburger in paradise/Medium rare with mustard’d be nice/Heaven on Earth with an onion slice/I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise”
— Jimmy Buffett, “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” 1978

A cheeseburger in paradise?

I’m starting to wonder about such bliss. Even I, the self-proclaimed king of red-meat eating delight, am beginning to wonder whether eating too much steak, sausage and cheeseburgers is bad for you.

Here’s why.

Just in time for grilling season, there’s a new report circulating in the mainstream media — it was on USA Today’s website yesterday and on the day before — that says eating too much red meat is bad for you. The headline of the USA Today story is, “Study links eating more red meat with early death.”

I know … we see these reports about the dangers of red meat overconsumption a few times year. And such reports have been coming out seemingly since Neanderthals first learned to roast meat over an open fire.

The latest report, published in the medical journal BMJ, states that an increase in red meat consumption of at least half a serving per day was linked with a 10% higher risk of early death.

“A large body of evidence has shown that higher red meat consumption, especially processed red meat, is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes; cardiovascular disease; certain types of cancer, including colorectal cancer; and mortality,” according to the report.

I don't doubt the report, but I do have a problem with what constitutes a serving of meat. It's just not enough!

The American Heart Association suggests we eat no more than eight or nine servings a week of meat and/or poultry, with each serving weighing about 3 ounces. That’s 27 ounces of meat and/or poultry a week — at the most. Ask me and I’ll tell you that 27 ounces of meat and/or poultry a week is pretty puny. (I’m not afraid to admit that on several occasions I’ve eaten a 30-ounce T-bone steak at one sitting.)

But, I must admit, while I used to brush off these reports with the bite of a roast beef sandwich, I’m starting to think about them more.

One reason is my age. At this point, I don't want to die younger because I'm not young anymore, if that makes sense. But the main reason I'm taking these bad reports about red meat more to heart has to do with the some of the meat substitutes I’ve sampled in the past year. They are outstanding! The fake meat tastes fabulous, has excellent mouthfeel and is healthy. There’s also the sustainability factor: Producing red meat is a lot less sustainable than producing replica meat.

Look at what Beyond Meat is becoming. The meat-alternative company, which offers products that “look, cook and satisfy like beef,” went public last month and its stock has soared well over 100%. People are sold on Beyond Meat and others like it, such as Impossible Foods.

These companies are getting a tremendous amount of attention in the media, and their products are increasing in availability. It’s why Tyson Foods, the biggest meat producer in America, introduced its first plant-based "meat" products this week. Tyson realized it has to get in this game, which is now mainstream.

Retailers and manufacturers of private brands have to be licking their chops over the potential of the newer plant-based products that can replicate red meat products so well. The demand is growing and will continue to grow, especially as aging baby boomers like myself finally begin listening to the reports about the dangers of eating too much real red meat. But, again, a big reason we’re listening is because we know some of these plant-based meat products deliver. Yeah, they are a little pricey, but that will change, especially when retailers begin introducing their own brand versions of Beyond Meat-type products.

Hey Jimmy Buffett, I’m still down for a cheeseburger in paradise … once in a while. But maybe it’s time you write a song about a fake cheeseburger. There's an audience, my friend.



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