All humans would benefit from eating cleaner, organic, locally grown whole plant foods. Fresh organic greens should be the foundation of pretty much any diet. On today’s show, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen take on the huge IPO that came out, rendering Beyond Meat a public company. They share some insights, as well as their own rants, on the public’s response to this. Beyond Meat is a Los Angeles-based producer of plant-based meat substitutes founded in 2009 by Ethan Brown.
Listen to the podcast here:
Beyond Meat: Going Public And Beyond
I got me fired up in non-social media for the first time in a long time. It’s not something that I engage in that energy of getting stirred up and riled up. I had enough on Instagram and I needed to speak out about something because it’s interesting. I’d had enough of the yakety-yak and people flapping their gums all about Beyond Meat. With the huge IPO that came out, Beyond Meat is a public company. They’re on the NASDAQ. This is huge that there is a plant-based vegan company that had an IPO. The last evaluation was around $4 billion for a vegan. That’s never happened in the history of commerce. This is groundbreaking in terms of conscious capitalism and creating vegan and plant-based products. It’s been interesting to see the public response to this. We’ve been eating Beyond Meat for many years. We were at one of the launch parties of 2012, 2013. We’ve been tracking this company, trying their products, seeing them evolve over the past 6 to 7 years with this IPO and the success and also amazingly, a lot of celebrity athletes are endorsing it and/or have been investors in the company.
Bill Gates is an investor. Leonardo DiCaprio is an investor as well?
I believe that he is.
Richard Branson too?
I don’t know.
It’s not speculation.
Branson is for sure.Whatever you're choosing to put into your consciousness says a lot about what you're paying attention to. Click To Tweet
I’m almost positive that he is in that company. I know he’s in some vegan company.
The thing that’s been interesting is the coalescing of the energy around this company and how fascinating and polarizing the opinions are around this.
There’s an article from our friend, Jill Ettinger, who writes for LIVEKINDLY wrote this. Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Bill Gates are leading a funding round into the vegan meat startup, Motif Ingredients. That’s a competitor of Beyond Meat, but I’m almost positive that Bill Gates invested in Beyond Meat. He did for sure. Leonardo DiCaprio, too.
Leonardo DiCaprio is also an investor in Hippeas.
It makes complete sense. I don’t think he’s even vegetarian, is he?
I have no idea.
He’s a huge environmentalist.
Him being a vegetarian doesn’t necessarily give him a pass. That’s what I want to talk about. In this massive whirlwind of the energy of Beyond Meat going public, them being at Del Taco and Carl’s Jr. The amazing penetration they’ve had into the commercial fast-food arena. The thing that I’ve been interested in and paying attention to is the response, the praise, the backlash, all of the things around this. You and I talking that you feel like you haven’t seen a lot of the backlash or the negativity around it where I feel like my feed, for whatever reason, has been flooded with many interesting comments and opinions.
Can I explain why that is?
Because you’ve unfollowed a lot of people?
I had somewhere between 2,000 to 3,000 people that I was following on Instagram. I can’t remember when that was exactly. It was late 2018, and I hit this point where you and I had a conversation about this. We were thinking like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we’re following a handful of people.” I diligently went through all the people that I was following on Instagram and unfollowed anyone that I didn’t feel in alignment with. I either didn’t know them. When I saw their names and looked at their feeds, I thought to myself, “I don’t even know who this person is and why I’m following them.” Probably because I met them at some random place or I saw one posted them and I followed them. I went through every single person. It took me several weeks because I vetted every single account. I remember feeling frustrated that I couldn’t follow fewer people. I’m down to 130 people that I’m following which is low, relative. Every once in a while, I’ll still go through and do a little check and say, “Does following this person feel good to me?” There is a huge benefit to that. One is that I’m choosing to follow people that I feel aligned with. There’s a pro and a con to that. Sometimes we are only paying attention to the people that we like. We don’t know what’s going on outside of our own perspectives.
There is this benefit in Jason’s case of following people that you might disagree with because you’re more open-minded when you’re following people that you might disagree with. The downside of my opinion is that I don’t want to open up my Instagram and see something that’s going to make me feel angry, frustrated, sad, or I’m in a comparison mode. In this part of my life and when I did the unfollowing, I wanted to go on Instagram and not feel I was being emotionally triggered. I would find that and I would open it up and I would see somebody with a body that I admired and I would think to myself, “I wish I looked like that.” Sometimes I’d open up and I’d see somebody doing something amazing and I think, “I wish that I was doing that too.” Sometimes I would open it up and I would see someone getting all these likes or had all these followers and I would get into this mode of, “I wish that my post got that many likes and I have that many followers.” It was this constant trigger of comparison constantly. For me personally, I haven’t learned how not to be triggered by that. The posts that I see, there are some great benefits to only following 130 people, the people that I’m following don’t necessarily post every day. When I opened up my Instagram and scroll through, there’ll only be two new posts for me to see.
Instagram will be like, “You’ve seen all the other posts that have been shared.” It keeps me on Instagram less although I still go into the discover section and I’ll browse. That’s where I find all the good memes that I send Jason. Because I go into the discover section, I still get exposed to people that might trigger me. What’s cool about Instagram’s discover section is that it’s based on an algorithm of what you’ve been liking. If you start to like posts that you like, then they’ll only show you posts related to that. For me, it’s a lot of inspirational quotes, a lot of people talking about body image in a positive way and also lots of possums, Bulldogs, and cats. I wanted to share that with you Jason and people reading because when you’re saying, “Whitney didn’t even know this was happening.” It is interesting when you curate what’s coming into your Instagram, Facebook, your newsletters. Are you reading the news? Are you watching the news? Are you listening to podcasts? Whatever you’re choosing to put into your consciousness says a lot about what you’re paying attention to. A lot of people are used to taking in every piece of information, the good and the bad. As you’ll read in this episode, Jason, you’re worked up about this.
We can talk more about the emotional side of it but let’s get into the “meat” of what you’ve heard that I was not aware of until Jason shared it with me. This is a great example of how we can get news. We can either choose to get it from a new source or we can have conversations with friends. We can curate what we know about the world based on what information our friends are gathering. That’s going back to our roots as human beings. We shared news verbally in person. We share news through social media, blogs, and TV. We’re exposed to a lot more opinions and perspectives in the world for good or for bad.
Many of those opinions and perspectives have been extremely positive regarding this. What I see as a monumental title moment. I was talking to my mom about this and it’s interesting because I never know what my mom’s reaction is going to be for the things I post on social media.
I feel like you and your mom agree on most things.Humans ought to be eating as clean and organic and fresh as possible. Click To Tweet
We do, but there’s an occasion where she’s like, “I don’t know.” She’s questioned me on certain things and I’m like, “I’m going to keep it up. I’m not taking it down.” My point is when I post something where I’m fired up or I’ve got a lot of emotion or I’m doing a love rant as I call them on my Instagram stories, it’s curious to see how people are going to respond or react. I did a long one where I was doing a love rant about my perspectives of the negativity and the hate. The haters that have come out of the woodwork where it’s interesting. I’m not saying this is a fact, it’s what I’ve observed before the IPO didn’t seem like there was that much hate directed at Beyond Meat. Beyond Meat goes in the IPO, they’re valued at $4 billion. The comments have been fascinating that people have been posting. I shared it on the day of their IPO on my Facebook wall and said, “This is a monumental moment.” I’ve been vegan for 21 years, vegetarian for 23. It’s a monumental day to see conscious, compassionate capitalism taking this leap forward. On many levels, it’s massive.
To pay attention to the subsequent comments, I got on my page and then also comments finding me. One person was saying and this was most of them, but there are another one is a fellow chef that we know said something to the effect of like, “All this fake meat, all this processed food. Why don’t just people eat vegetables?” Someone commented below that, “If we’re talking to people who are eating a standard American diet, they need gateway foods.” The chef that we know went gateway-schmateway, “Processed foods shouldn’t be,” and goes on this long diatribe. That’s one example. I was like, “Fair enough.” I can understand from a chef’s perspective that this particular chef we know is all about whole ingredients and doesn’t use anything processed. It’s their food philosophy. Not necessarily from an ethical standpoint of view but that was his food philosophy. He was being a bit of a snobby artist because I know this person and I can call them that.
Would you want someone to call you snobby? I wouldn’t want to be called a snobby artist.
I would because I am a snobby artist. Let me be kinder. They’re particular about what they like to prepare their food with. Beyond that, I was seeing one post in particular, which was comparing Beyond Meat to Soylent Green. If you have not seen this movie, it was Charlton Heston. It came out in the early ’70s whereby the year 2022 the world was feeding people with this product called Soylent Green. The whole thing about Soylent Green is at the end of the movie, they reveal Charlton Heston finds out that Soylent Green is made from ground-up people. The last scene of the movie is him screaming, “Soylent green is people.” He’s going crazy in the cut to black. At the end of the movie, you find out Soylent Green is ground-up people. This other acquaintance we have in the health and wellness field was comparing and saying that the chemical process in the laboratory functions of how they create Beyond Meat products is equivalent to us eating human corpses.
Are you sure that they were comparing it to Soylent Green, the movie or Soylent the property?
They posted a movie poster of Soylent Green the movie and said, “We’re heading in this direction. By 2022, we’re going to be eating humans.” He was saying there are human cells in Beyond Meat. As we’re going through this thing, I see more and more posts. One was talking about how these millionaires at the top and everyone’s rich after the IPO and they’re poisoning people. Some people were saying they’re poisoning people. Another person was like, “We’re not meant to eat processed foods. We should be eating whole foods, zero oil.” What has been triggered in me and what I wanted to talk about and what I did talk about on my Instagram story is that it seems to me that a lot of these posts are looking at some perfected state of how we ought to be eating. “In my opinion, at the higher goal, which is global warming, staving off the environmental catastrophe that we’re facing, reducing the suffering and slaughter of hundreds of billions of animals that we’re killing each year for our food supply. No, you should be eating a kale salad and not a Beyond Burger because that’s how we ought to be eating.” I get triggered because it feeds into me this idea of perfection over progress and that’s not my value system.
Even kale can be bad because it’s on the dirty dozen list. If they’re not eating organic kale, you could still be eating a product laced with chemicals. It’s ironic in a way because then you have good on this rabbit hole of like, “Are you going to eat kale? Is any kale better than a Beyond Burger? Is non-organic kale equally as bad as a Beyond Burger?” To your point here, it depends on your perspectives in the grand scheme of things. It’s all relative. It all depends on what stage you’re into because when people transition to the plant-based diet at first, they become junk food vegans. They’re eating a ton of processed foods. Me too. I’ve gone through a lot of stages of eating a lot of processed foods and I still consume them. I love Beyond Burger. I’ve been eating a low carb diet and the Beyond Burger is one of the very few meat alternatives out there that I can consume with my dietary choices and my food sensitivities. For me, it’s all relative to the other things that I can consume. If you took away the Beyond Burger for me or if I chose not to eat the Beyond Burger, it’s in a way taking away some joy from me. That’s relative to my life.
If I choose to have the Beyond Burger a couple of times a month for pure satisfaction, it’s all relative to how often I consume it. It’s also relative to other people. Let’s say they’re choosing that Carl’s Jr., which is this chain in the Western part of the United States. This fast food and Burger King is going to have the Impossible Burger, which is a competitor to Beyond Meat. Imagine how many people are going to choose to have these burgers. Our friend, Robert Cheeke, posted on his Instagram how he was going to Del Taco because Del Taco has the Beyond Meat Crumbles in their tacos. According to Robert, it was one of the most successful product launches that Del Taco’s ever had.
That’s a vegan product in the non-vegan restaurant and their first outwardly plant-based product in their advertising. It’s not like you can put guacamole and tomatoes in a taco and call it vegan. You’re getting a vegan meat alternative in your taco. Imagine how many people are going to pull up to that line and say, “I saw Leonardo DiCaprio posting about this and I’ve been thinking about my impact on the environment. Maybe I should choose this instead of the cow-based meat that I normally order.” The same thing when you go to Carl’s Jr. or Burger King. Any of these fast food places that are serving these patties.
Another great example of timely is Jason and I went to try out this burger shop in Los Angeles. It’s entirely vegan, but they don’t lead with veganism in their advertising. It has only been open a week. Granted this is in Los Angeles and in a neighborhood that’s health forward. We were shocked sitting in this tiny restaurant, there was a line out the door for lunchtime. I instinctually looked at the crowd and based on observation, I assumed that most people, if not everybody, aside from us in that restaurant probably ate meat. They weren’t fully vegan in other words. They’re coming into this vegan shop. Did you hear there is a man sitting across from us in the restaurant, he was already eating his meal and he asked if it was vegan. He was taking a bite of the food and then asked flat out, “Is this a vegan burger?” He’s not asked before he ordered. He didn’t seem dissatisfied, so I assumed he was curious. People thought, “New burger shop. I’m going to go try it out.” They don’t care if it’s vegan or not, but the number of lives those people saved in terms of cows, pigs, or chickens, the environmental impact, which is exactly why Leonardo DiCaprio and Bill Gates invest.
They are looking for more ways to take care of the environment. I’m sure there’s a financial incentive for them too. Jason and I will be honest, we make a lot of decisions out of our financial interest but that is secondary to our bigger goals. I would assume that’s the same with Leonardo DiCaprio. He doesn’t even need any more money. He wants to invest in Beyond Meat so that he can put up money into his foundations. The same thing with Bill Gates. There are elements of Bill Gates that I may not agree with. I’m also a huge Apple lover. Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, he’s investing in another plant-based company. These men are obviously good at making money and they care a lot, but they already have plenty of money. Do they need to make more? No. Who are we to judge what they’re even doing with that money? It isn’t about the money for them. They’re such good businessmen that they know a good company when they see one and that’s why they make these investments. These knee-jerk reactions and as you’re saying, Jason, this perfectionist mentality, I get it too.
I’ve gone through stages of my life where I’ve wanted to eat perfectly. I have not found that sustainable. I have a lot of different opinions about the way that I eat, my choices and how they impact the environment, but I don’t need to push them on other people. I can share them. I can talk about all my experiences, but some people come to a place in their lives where they realize that because they think something, that doesn’t mean that they can force somebody else to think the same. Some people want to dedicate their lives to try and to force others. Let’s look at humanity.
Most things have not gone over well when we’ve tried to force humans to do anything. If we step back, some of the most horrible decisions we’ve made as human beings have been when one person said, “This is the way I want things done and if you don’t follow me, then you’re against me. I may kill you.” It’s some horrible things that have happened. That may be a stretch from a conversation around Beyond Meat, but it’s ultimately similar. It’s like, “If you don’t agree with the way that I want to eat, then you’re wrong. I’m going to shame you. I’m going to bully you into trying to eat the same way and buy the same things.” This whole protest element. I don’t know if people have gone that far with Beyond Meat to protest it. What do you think is the point of people posting about their negative opinions about Beyond Meat?
By and large, other than people shaming the owners for making all this money, which has been rare, the financial shaming. It’s mostly been the shaming and the judgment around processed food is bad. Even if it’s plant-based, it will kill you. They’re using human cells in their formula and not telling anybody. It’s made in a laboratory. You should be and I’ve seen should many times. Beating fresh from the farmer’s market, growing your own food or buying whole food plant-based and not doing anything processed. It’s been about shaming processed food, in general, saying it’s categorically bad for human health. Humans ought to be eating as clean and organic and fresh as possible. That’s been the most of it.
If I’m going to play the idealist role and understand where they’re coming from, yes, on the highest level. Do I think that all humans would benefit from eating cleaner, organic, locally-grown plant foods, whole plant? Of course. Fresh greens, fresh fruits and vegetables, that should be the foundation of fresh vegetables, in particular, fresh organic greens of any diet with few exceptions. To me, the thing that I have is idealism and the need to be right. Getting in the way of progress and acknowledging progress. The issue that I have is because this reminds me of studying how years ago the original civil rights movement got frayed. The feminism movement got frayed and a lot of social justice movements, things that were small groups of people coming together to change the world or alter the system. Eventually, there becomes this infighting where it’s not the resistance, the negativity or the penetration of outside forces. Things dissolve and become frayed from the inside because people think they’re right and you’re wrong and you’re doing it the wrong way. Honestly, the saddest and most frustrating thing I feel sometimes is looking at the vegan movement, the compassionate capitalism movement. Everything we’re in trying to save animal lives.
Trying to turn around global warming and the environmental catastrophe and optimize human health is them putting their opinions of what we ought to be doing in front of the larger goal. According to climate scientists, we have twelve years to turn this around or the catastrophe is inevitable. We kill globally hundreds of billions of animals. You should be eating greens only. It’s this pedantic, dismissive ego-based need to be right. It blows my mind because on the highest level I agree with you, but with nearly eight billion people on this planet that are consuming, eating, and producing unsustainably. To avoid a global catastrophe and save lives, I’m not going to be pushing people to eat salads all day. If you go to a place like Montgomery, Alabama or where I’m from, Detroit, Michigan, Abilene, Texas, you should be eating salads.
As if they don’t already know that. Any human being knows that a salad is one of the healthiest choices you could make. That’s the part that’s funny about this. We have been grown-up and most of us have learned whether our parents have encouraged us or not. Most human beings are aware that fruits and vegetables are the healthiest things to eat. I don’t get that excited about salads. There are some weeks where I do not have a salad at all. I get bored easily. To me, I have to have the right dressing and the right texture. It’s got to have all these different textures and a salad is on the complex side. The worst thing for me is if I buy a bunch of salad ingredients trying to force myself to eat them, sometimes I’m not in the mood for it. They’ll go back to my fridge and I’ve wasted money and food by buying things that I didn’t even want.If you don't deal with what's going on inside your head and in your heart, you're not healthy. Click To Tweet
I go through these phases where I’ll eat a ton of salads and times where I’ll have steamed vegetables instead. Even after all of these years of studying plant-based nutrition and experimenting, I sometimes go through phases where I desire processed foods, and that’s going to be my choice to have them. It’s this idea of are you going to be against me and my choices simply because I want to go to Carl’s Jr. every once in a while and get a Beyond Burger and a nonorganic lettuce wrap? I feel like it is from the ego because you’re assuming that somebody else has not weighed out all the pros and cons of that decision.
Sometimes, I’ll choose to eat a bag of processed snacks like chips or puffs. I will stand there in the aisle of the grocery store weighing out the pros and cons of whether or not I should buy that food then I make a decision. Sometimes I put the bag back or take the bag or I eat the whole bag in one sitting. Sometimes I measure it out and try to follow the serving sizes. I know that I’m making a decision based on what feels best for me at that moment. What happens is that people make these judgments or shaming others. They have no idea why somebody is deciding to eat Beyond Meat. We had it. Why do we get a Beyond Burger? A new place is open and we want to support a new vegan restaurant. We went there to try this burger to give our feedback, to help them spread the word so other people could go try it out for themselves.
In fact, we even had a conversation because to be honest, I love the taste of Beyond Meat but oftentimes, it gives me a stomach ache. On a personal level, I should have it in moderation. I know the ingredients are processed and it will give me a stomachache. You and our friend Melissa said the same thing. The three of us discuss like, “Should we go to this restaurant and try the Beyond Burger?” We were having a conscious conversation about it. What would be more beneficial than trying to make these overall statements, judgments, right or wrong, black and white are to encourage people to be conscious about their choices?
If you’re going to decide to have the Beyond Burger, are you having it instead of meat? If so, it’s a great choice. Do you have the Beyond Burger every single day? If so, not the healthiest choice for you. Do you have the burger in addition to a salad? Do you have the burger once a week and the rest of the week you had salads, vegetables and all of these other things? Is it your splurge meal? Is it something that you’re having for the first time? I met up with some friends who live in this remote part of Canada. They had never even had the Impossible Burger because it’s not available near where they live. Even though they’re very devoted vegans, they don’t even get to experience it often. Are you going to tell them not to have it, not to experience it once a year or you make this blanket statement that it is wrong and bad for your health? To your point, Jason, it’s not considering all the variables about why somebody might eat that. It’s coming from a place of a lot of ego of right or wrong, “I know better than you. I know what’s good for the planet. I know what’s good for people’s health.”
Has the person that has said that statement weighed out the pros and cons? Have they sat down and read statements by investors? Have they talked to Ethan Brown? We’re not making this episode to be ambassadors for Beyond Meat. We’re true fans and we celebrate them as a company because we’ve been there from the beginning. We’ve watched this brand grow over time. We know the chef that helped Beyond Meat develop the Beyond Burger. We’ve talked to him, we trust him. He’s an incredible person who is thoughtful and intentional. We also have met the team from Impossible Foods. I talked to the food scientists about this. I have put faces to the company. Have those people that have made these big bold statements dug in deep enough before they’ve made their form of opinions? I don’t know. My guess would be probably not, because I don’t think many people have spent that time developing their opinions on a brand or a product enough before they’ve shouted from the rooftops how they feel.
If they were to do that, that would mean there’s a possibility they wouldn’t be right and they’d have to change their opinion before they shove down people’s throats. It’s indicative of the larger landscape of social media, which is people vomiting their opinions without much substantive research behind what they’re talking about. Everyone being armchair experts, which is a thing and I get it. People in some way in their life are not feeling validated, seen, or approved of. If they’re like, “I’m going to teach everybody what’s healthy?” It’s this ego boost. It’s like, “I know. I’m going to teach you. I’m going to show you what you should eat, what you shouldn’t eat.” Maybe it’s the fatalist and the nihilist in me, but I have this cartoon image. Sometimes you see those comic strips in the newspaper of the world burning, cities collapsing and forests being on fire.
This person is sitting with a fork and a salad going, “You guys need to eat your greens.” If we do not do our best to divert our carbon output, our methane output, the level of plastic we’re putting in the Earth and in the oceans, the amount of meat and dairy products we’re eating, the number of animals we’re killing. If we don’t wake up and keep doing things and making efforts each day for ourselves and others, there’s not going to be a habitable planet left to eat your salad and your perfect diet. To me, the goal, in my opinion, is to do the best we can to turn around what we’re doing on this planet so we have a planet to live on. Obsessing over our food choices seems to be one of the lowest priorities.
It is one of the highest priorities because our food choices are made in terms of the long-term impact. To their point, they’re concerned that if a lot of people are eating these processed foods, we will move towards a place where everybody’s eating processed foods to survive. It’s a scary reality if you think about it because there is a product called Soylent that happens to be vegan. It is a meal in a bottle. We have done the research to prove that you can survive off of it. You have a bottle in your fridge.
I haven’t touched it.
Is it there in case of an emergency?
It was given to me in a schwag bag at an event. I’ve done enough research around genetic modification and this company is a pro-GMO. I’m proud of the fact that they genetically modify their ingredients. I was like, “That’s a bit of a hard-line stance that I don’t feel comfortable with.”
Whereas Beyond Meat is non-GMO and Impossible Foods has GMO ingredients. That’s one of the big differences between the two as far as I know. Beyond Meat is constantly changing but I’m sure they’re still a non-GMO. Processed foods trigger people because it feels easy. I got to be honest, it sounds nice to wake up and not even think about what I’m going to eat and grab a shake and drink it. If Soylent was organic and it was made with ingredients that didn’t upset my stomach, I would drink it regularly. I am one of those people that I get frustrated sometimes. This is why salads are tough for me. We’re working to do better things for people’s consciousness. That’s our aim here. I have this whole brand, Eco-Vegan Gal, that I’m working on to help teach people about veganism and being better for the environment. That work is exhausting. There are many days where I don’t even feel I have the energy to figure out what to eat. My point being is there are plenty of people on this planet that they feel drained by their work, for good or for bad.
They’re doing something good for the planet, good for people’s health, good for the long-term, but because they’re doing so much work burning themselves out. A perfect example is Elon Musk who probably barely sleeps. He would be a perfect candidate for convenient foods like Soylent because that man doesn’t have time to eat or he doesn’t want to make time to eat. He’s exhausted. He needs quick energy. Are you going to say, “Sorry, Elon Musk, you need to spend an hour for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner. You need to take away from this life-changing work that you’re doing to sit down. How dare you have a Beyond Meat.” It’s all relative. The pro to process foods is that it makes it easier for people to get nourished quickly and inexpensively. The cons to processed food are that the nutritional benefit while it depends on your views and nutrition. Something like Soylent has been precisely designed to give you everything you “need.”
Your nutritional necessities.
Those types of nutrients are different than if you were to get a whole food equivalent of those. The point against something like the Beyond Burger or Beyond Meat, in general, is that you can get the nutrition from Beyond Meat, but you would be better off in the long-term getting that nutrition from a salad or from the fresh vegetables. I agree with that. Jason agrees with that. The time that it takes to shop for high-quality vegetables, the money that it might take to buy them and the time it takes to prepare them. I would venture to say many people find that daunting. To Jason’s point too, if you say to someone, “That Beyond Meat Burger that you bought from the grocery store to cook at home, it’s not good for you.” They might say, “They’re right, I should be eating less processed foods so I’m going to buy the beef instead because it’s one ingredient.” In a way, they turn people away from veganism because to them they’re thinking, “If I have the option between the Beyond Burger, a beef patty or a plateful of vegetables and I’m craving a burger right now, I’m going to choose the beef patty if you’re saying the Beyond Burger isn’t healthy.”
People could swing in the opposite direction. Who knows what other choices are? If you’re already vegan, I don’t know where all of these opinions are targeted. If someone’s saying to vegans like, “Don’t eat the Beyond Burger.” If somebody is making a choice to have the Beyond Burger, what are their other options to buy some inedible veggie patty? One of the reasons I loved the Beyond Burger is because I’ve been vegan for many years. I had experimented with vegetarianism off and on before then. I’m going to share my answer but I’m going to ask you first. When you’ve gone to a restaurant pre-Beyond Meat, pre-Gardein, let’s go way back. When you think of a veggie patty, think of the first strong memory that comes to mind.
There are two because it was the mid-‘90s.
It was the year 1999 or 2000, somewhere in there. I was in a Hard Rock Café, New York City on a school trip. I was trying to eat healthily. I ordered a veggie burger and I remember it being gross and I was trying to put it in front of my school friends like, “I made the right choice by ordering this veggie patty.” It was gross. That’s one of the countless times where I would order the veggie burger and it was crumbling apart chunks of corn and various vegetables mashed together either undercooked or overcooked. It was a soggy mess of vegetables on a button pretending to be a burger. That was the state of vegetarian food for a long time. When the Beyond Burger came out and I tried that, my mind was blown. I know that it’s scientifically made, but when I want a burger, that’s the experience I want. I want that smoky experience. I do want it to be, “Meat-like.” Deep down, I remember what it’s like to have that meat experience. I don’t want actual meat.Food is very important. With the ever-changing landscape of research, we know what food is doing to us. Click To Tweet
I want to be vegan. Deep down, most human beings, we have this carnal. There’s this primal desire to have smoked meat. That’s why bacon is such a huge deal is because it taps into some old wiring in our head. That was what if they’ve created with Beyond Meat and it’s targeted to non-vegans and vegetarians. That’s who they’re marketing. It happens to be vegan so that vegetarians and vegans can enjoy it too. I don’t think we’re their target market. Most vegetarians and vegans are adventurous enough and knowledgeable enough to know that there are plenty of other things that we can eat. I’m not saying that we don’t have plenty of options. There are some bomb veggie burgers all across the world that you can get. I’m not saying it’s like my experience back years ago at the Hard Rock Café. We’ve evolved a lot in that time. My point being is a lot of people when they think veggie burger, they’re still thinking of the veggie burger I had years ago. What’s your veggie burger story that you were thinking? Pick one of them.
I can’t call off the brands by name because that wouldn’t be fair.
Is it a store-bought or at a restaurant?
Part of it is store-bought because there were only two options at the time and both were like, “It is chewing on old leather.” It was the mouthfeel and the texture was like, “This whole vegetarian thing is working out great.”
I want to know the story.
I don’t have a specific story. It’s similar to yours.
Don’t you remember what restaurant?
Chili’s, Outback, they’re all the same. It was like, “Here you go, we got one veggie option.” They’d have one thing and it was culinarily speaking horrible. Even the things you would buy at the stores, the point is creatively, nutritionally, and scientifically. We have come so far in two decades.
We know that as educated vegans. Jason and I were in the food space. We have tried countless burgers over the years. We’ve both been vegan for many years. I’m saying our opinions are in that small percentage of people. Based on my experience, most people have only had a couple of veggie burgers in their entire lives, if not any. The Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger started becoming available at restaurants within the past couple of years. Most people have one bad veggie burger, they’re never going to trust them again. On the other hand, you have the Beyond Meat or the Impossible Foods’ burgers. Most people I’ve met that have had those burgers have been blown away by them. They have said time and again, “I didn’t know eating vegan could taste this good.”
The thing is if people were eating for nutrition only, we’d have a much different planet and system of eating. The reality is that when it comes to food choices, it’s not clearly about nutritional density. It’s the cultural implications of feeling included in your family dinners, the potential ostracization with your friends, wanting to feel included, the traditions that are held. Eating is an emotional act and it’s layered, nuanced and a sensitive thing for people. This whole idea of we ought to be eating Paleo, keto, wholefood plant-based. Whatever it is that people try and shove down people’s throats, they forget it’s not about nutrition. In fact, for most human beings, that’s one of the last considerations in why they choose to eat the food they do. What’s at the top of the list? Does it taste good? Is it cheap? Is it easy? Do I feel like this is something I could share with my friends and family for that communal experience?
It is multidimensional. The act of eating and what we choose in our food is diminishing to reduce it to the perspective of nutrition. The human psychology point of this is what is psychologically pleasing for people? What is emotionally comforting? What helps bring us together so we don’t feel divided from the people we love in our lives. Beyond Meat, Impossible and Good Catch Foods is another plant-based seafood brand. If these analogs, these plant-based versions of things allow people to feel not only nutritionally satisfied. Also, feel connected to the people in their life to still be able to go to the cook-out in the summertime and throw a couple of patties on. Throw a couple of sausages on and your uncle Albert and your Aunt Linda try one, they’re like, “This is great.”
When I first went vegetarian, I had many uncomfortable experiences. The one other comes to mind for me and maybe you have a similar one, Jason. It was the first summer that I had going vegetarian. I had gone vegan yet. I was with this family, I was a nanny for. I was dedicated to it and they were having a cook-out at their summer house. We went to the grocery store and they were going to eat hotdogs. I bought tofu dogs. I remember, the father of this family I was working for laughing at me, making fun of me, and grilling me. I don’t think he meant to hurt my feelings. It was part of his personality. I don’t think about that moment often. That’s what comes to mind when you’re sharing the social side of it of a feeling embarrassed that was trying to masquerade the veggie dog as a hot dog because I wanted to fit in and it didn’t taste good. In addition to feeling embarrassed, I also didn’t even enjoy it. I’ll tell you as a contrast to that, every time I’ve had the Beyond Burger in a social setting with meat-eaters, which is many times, I’ve only positive memories because I put it on the grill. It looks like a beef patty. Nobody even knows that I’m eating a vegan burger. If I don’t say anything, nobody will even notice. Most of the time, I’ll offer a bite to somebody or I’ll share a patty with them. Most of the time, somebody will say, “That’s good.”
That did not happen several years ago. To your point, there’s another level to this, an emotional element of the progress we’ve made. We also have to remember that so much has changed in a few years. The majority of years of being vegetarian and vegan have been those tofu dogs type experiences. Having food that did not taste as good and that did not even look like the food that other people were eating and having to weather people making fun of me, questioning me or turning their nose up at something I invited them to try. To create something that is not only socially acceptable that allows you to fit in, that is also relatively affordable and something that you can find frequent and easily. Now that you can go to a drive-thru and order the Impossible Burger or the Beyond Burger and not visually look like you’re completely out of place with somebody else, that is remarkable. We’re at the beginning of the shift. When did the Beyond Burger come up?
I remember first having it in 2016. They shipped a preview pack and it hadn’t been on the market yet. I did that video on YouTube and I grilled it. I’m putting on the grill for the first time was sizzled, sparked, and was juicy. It performed in a culinary sense. It was the first experience I’d ever had where this thing performed and had the same reactions to cooking that a traditional beef burger would. I remember that first time. I was like, “This is going to be a game-changer.”
I remember at the beginning, you could barely get them. They were only at Whole Foods for a while. Whole Foods is not accessible to most people in terms of price or locations. It was almost always sold out. It wasn’t until the past year that this Beyond Burger has been available in many places, including restaurants across North America. I don’t know if it’s in Europe yet but that shift has been remarkable. We can say the same thing with a brand like Oatly with their oat milk. Oatly oat milk at the beginning, you could barely find it. It wasn’t that accessible, but it was one of the best plant-based milk that we’ve ever had. It’s available all across the world so people can choose to have oat milk. A similar point where it looks a lot like milk, it tastes a lot like milk. It foams like milk when you want to put it into drinks. You could have a plant-based drink that tastes a lot better than soy milk in my opinion. That performs like milk so much so, that the baristas have finally embraced dairy-free drinks. All these years of us having soy milk and almond milk, a lot of baristas would turn their nose up at it.
Because it didn’t perform the same. It didn’t do what they needed to do chemically.
You’d feel like an outcast for ordering something dairy-free. This has been the case for so long and we’ve gotten used to it. To come back around, it’s a complicated thing. This is the thing we need to consider. It’s going back to this idea of perfectionism. If you’re going to hone in on the flaws of something and ignore all of the amazing things that something is and societally we are at a point where there’s a lot of people will find the flaw in anything. Verbalize it to the point where other people see their statement and think, “Maybe they’re right.” I shouldn’t even bother having the Beyond Burger because I don’t want to be shamed for it. I don’t want to make the wrong decision. Not to mention, Jason, if somebody’s whole point is that the Beyond Burger is going to kill you, how do they know? If it’s been out for a few years. We do not have enough data.
There’s not exactly a double-blind study going on.If we're going to have compassion for everybody, we need to have compassion for people that we disagree with. Click To Tweet
As much as we don’t want to believe this as vegans, just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean that you’re bulletproof. It does not guarantee you a long life because anything could happen. It depends on what you’re eating, but also your genetics. It depends on many factors in your life. You can be vegan but be filling your house with chemicals. To be truly healthy, you have to make a lot of conscious choices. If you’re eating salads every day, it does not guarantee that you’re going to live any longer than somebody that eats processed foods. It also depends on how long. My grandfather is a great example. He was born in 1919 and he passed away in 2016. He lived until he was 97.5. My point is my grandfather grew up in a time before processed foods. For most of my life, as far as I know, he was eating processed cheap, convenient foods. My grandmother would buy the cheapest foods at the grocery store. She was all about saving money and they did not fall into my version of healthy. My grandfather lived for a long time. Part of the reason he lived long is that he spent a good majority of his life eating unprocessed foods because they didn’t even exist.
Had they existed, he would have eaten a lot of processed foods throughout his whole life. It depends on so many factors. How much of your life have you been eating unprocessed foods versus processed foods? What do you define processed? What’s available to you? What did you grow up on? Because I’ve been vegan for several years, it doesn’t negate the years prior to that in my life and everything else I was eating. I have to work hard to take care of my gut health. Something happened when I was a little kid, if not a baby or even in the womb, that impacted my gut health. Our mothers are passing on so much to us before we even get to make a decision. There are many factors beyond the food choices we make. It all depends on how long we’re making them and what’s going on in a cellular level with us. We can’t claim that because you’re eating salads all the time and you never have a Beyond Burger that you’re any healthier and you’re going to live any longer.
There’s this meme that’s been floating around on social media. I’m going to paraphrase it. I put it into an article on the Wellevatr website. It’s something like, “You can eat all the kale salads, you can eat superfoods, you can drink the smoothies, you can do yoga, go on trips to Peru and Tulum and do your Ayahuasca. If you don’t deal with what’s going on inside your head and in your heart, you’re not healthy.” I’m going to say that because there is a lot of materialistic, egoic attitude even in the health and wellness industry where it’s like, “If I eat the exact right way and take this powder, do this yoga class, go on this retreat and get these Mala beads, I’ll be healthy and balanced and spiritual.” You’re holding on tightly to this externalization of what you think is going to make you healthy, well, and balanced, that you become unwell, unhealthy and unbalanced because you’re stressed about it. You’re holding it tightly. People are focused on the externalities of this that many people I know, they’re going for the gold medal. I’ve been 100% raw for many years or I’m a breatharian and I only do juices, whatever it is. I’ve been perfectly vegan, but you can feel their energy is contracted, closed in, nervous, fidgety and angry that some of the healthiest eaters I’ve met have been some of the most unpleasant people.
The point is this orthorexia, this obsession with what we’re eating is ignoring the other dimensions of health, which is are you being kind to yourself? Are you being kind to others? Are you learning how to live in balance? Have you forgiven? Have you let go of past traumas and past hurts? The dimensions of being a balanced person. There are many factors to it that to be reductive and say it’s about food is missing the whole point. There are many other layers to this conversation. You and I talk about this all the time, Whitney. Food is very important with the ever-changing landscape of the research. We know what food is doing to us. We have no idea because more research comes out every single year. My point is it’s not about what’s on the end of our fork, it’s how we treat each other. It’s about the other choices we make on this planet. If we get on our high horse and we are telling people what they ought to be doing, what they should be doing, or I have the answer and I’m going to show you what’s right. We are not being kind to one another. We’re not engaging with kindness and equanimity and trying to hear another person’s perspective or their life story or why they’re making the choices they do. We have no idea.
You said at the beginning, it is a win that Beyond Meat has made much money.
A vegan company is on the stock market.
They have some of the most influential, the wealthiest people on the planet are supporting this brand.
One of the holy grails in this whole conversation has been pro athletes because professional male athletes, in particular, have had this gladiatorial centuries-old idea of you have to kill, murder, rip and eat flesh to be strong. Even growing up, me playing sports. What do you do? You work out, you drink milk, you eat meat. That’s how you get strong.
Historically, gladiators were big starch eaters.
Gladiator translates to barley eater. The amazing thing about this conversation is athletes, in particular, were one of the toughest communities to crack in terms of eating a more plant-based food or eating healthier. It was this thing of this way old school nutritional philosophy of you have to eat animal flesh. You have to eat a certain way to be strong and healthy. To see champion athletes investing in this company. I’m a huge basketball fan, so two of my favorite players, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard were both like, “We’re vegan because it helps with recovery. We find that we’re not as sore as long. We are pushing harder.” That ripple effected out, especially in the NBA for some reason, more vegan players in the NBA than ever. It’s mind-blowing. I grew up playing basketball and to think that we would have even a handful of vegan athletes who’ve come up publicly to talk about it, that’s a segment of our population and our cultural consciousness that has never talked about this before. That’s massive. To undo the masculine archetype to be a man and to be strong, “You’ve got to eat meat, you’ve got to kill things.” That’s a whole another conversation of the layered archetypes around that. To have champion athletes come out and say, “I eat this product and it’s helped me.” That’s never happened ever. The impact of that cannot be discounted.
It takes money. A lot of these people are being paid to say things like that. Whether they personally believe in it or not, it doesn’t even matter as much because to your point, they are promoting something for the first time. When a brand like Beyond Meat makes money, they have money to invest in things like that. These pro athletes may never share what they’re doing privately, but when they’re paid to share about it, they will. A lot of this is marketing. To get into these restaurants, to get into store shelves takes money, to market it, to improve on something, to change the ingredients. For all we know, Beyond Meat may be trying to add in less processed ingredients. We don’t know what they’re working on, but it takes a lot of money. That’s the ironic thing about this. All of this time that people are complaining, do you know how many amazing brands out there never make it? They have to shut down their businesses or no one ever even hears them. They don’t get the right distribution because they don’t have the money to do it. We’re going to shame a brand for making money. That’s ridiculous because money is literally our currency. This is how we get things done.
There is nothing wrong with money. It is our perceptions of money. If somebody is becoming wealthy, more power to them. They have a better chance of influencing things. We look at the government, it’s very financially based. In order for someone to even have a chance of being involved in the government, they have to raise money to be into a position where they can influence a country. We need to have money. That’s how all of these things like Jason’s talking about is happening. People want to get paid or they need to get paid. It’s fantastic. It’s the beginning too. Brands like Beyond Meat are paving the way. You might not like Beyond Meat but hopefully, you can respect Beyond Meat for showing that something is possible.
To me, it’s an overall viewpoint and philosophy in the way of seeing the world. If you want to, you can see the good or the bad or judge anything however you want, whether it’s the Law of Attraction or energy, like finding birds of a feather flock, whatever. I am practicing doing my best to see the positive and the beneficial and things before my mind automatically goes to the negative. We, as beings, are conditioned in our fight or flight reptilian responses in our brain to find the danger, find the wrong or find what’s at fault here so that we can see if we want to exit the situation.
That’s why those people came up with their opinions in the first place. If we’re going to have compassion for everybody, we need to have compassion for people that we disagree with. They’re making these statements out of fear. For whatever reason, these people think that processed food like Beyond Meat is going to be the death of humanity. That’s our survival instinct. I’ve got to make sure that more people eat salads and don’t eat too many Beyond Meat products because that’s going to ruin the entire planet. I can also see their side of it too. Processed food usually requires a lot of resources. You buy a package of Beyond Meat at the store and it’s packaged, plastic and paper. It’s wasteful. Who knows how much waste goes into making it? Who knows how much waste happens at a restaurant? It’s not the perfect solution to making people healthier or more eco-friendly except that you and I are looking at the progress that it’s making versus a perfectionist side of it. That’s our standpoint.
To have compassion for these people, a lot of times anger comes out of fear. They’re afraid of something or they’re triggered. Maybe they had a loved one pass away because all they ate was junk food and they’re terrified that other people in their lives are going to pass away if they ate too much junk food, however, they want to label that. We also need to recognize that we don’t know what motivates these people that are saying negative things. It’s their choice to speak out on that. We have freedom of speech, so their opinions are as valid as ours. We believe that what they’re saying is not helping. They might believe that we’re not helping.
Opinions are like crap. Everyone’s got one. It’s taking everything with a grain of salt. Here on the show, we always want to dig into things. We don’t claim to have any answers. We don’t claim to be right. I certainly don’t.
We will be boring if we mutual a lot about everything.
We appreciate you being along for this ride with us. As always, we don’t know where things are going to go. We pick a topic and dive right in with you. If you want more content like this, you can go to Wellevatr.com. We’ve got great content there with more explorations in consciousness and living well, what it means to be a human being and this crazy interesting wildlife that we all live. You can also follow us on all of the social media platforms, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Whitney and I will be back with another episode soon. We adore you. Thanks for being always willing to jump in the deep end and we will catch you soon.
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