Tag Archives: Beyond Meat

Friday Linkage 2/7/2020

What a week.

First, the Iowa caucuses fell flat on their face.  In the end I do not believe that anything really bad happened.  If you consider that there was an issue that was realized as the vote tallies were being made, so the party made a decision to delay reporting results and get the numbers right.  With a physical paper trail it was possible for the party to take its time and check its work.  Isn’t this a course of action that should be applauded?

Second, to no one’s surprise Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate.  Whatever.

Third, Nancy Pelosi is my new spirit animal:

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On to the links…

Mountain Athletes Push Progress over Perfection in Climate Fight—Climate change is the fight of our lives and, for that matter, future generations’ lives.  Too often the environmental movement gets stuck on reaching for a perfect solution in place of progress.  Every step forward counts.

EPA Readies a Present to the Coal Industry—This is just another example of why the 2020 election is so important.  Big pollution, which includes industries like coal mining, is standing arm in arm with the corrupt and criminal Trump administration in an attempt to destroy the integrity of our air and water.  It really is the best government that money can buy if you want to poison people.

10 US Oil Refineries Exceeding Limits for Cancer-Causing Benzene—Does anyone think there would be any enforcement of this by the Trump administration?  Didn’t think so.

Why One Solar Power Project In South Dakota Will Rule Them All—South Dakota apparently gets a lot of its power from hydroelectric, which means that maybe its additional renewables can be fed into the grid to replace coal power elsewhere.  Is a single big project in South Dakota the tipping point for the region?

Can The US Wind Industry Beat The Coming Headwinds?—Yes.  Why?  Cost.  This one graphic shows where wind is already the cheapest additional kWh:

Wind Map

Change the assumptions a little and a lot of the natural gas counties become wind counties with a few solar counties in the sunnier places.

The Future Of US Solar Is Bright—It’s a future so bright we should all wear shades.

Costa Rica Is At Nearly 100% Renewable Energy For Electricity—Sure, Costa Rica is a small and has abundant hydropower.  Regardless, 100% renewable energy is a big deal.

U.K. Government Plans to Bring Petrol and Diesel Sales Ban Forward to 2035—The end of fossil fuel powered vehicles is approaching.

Fossil Vehicle Sales In France Crash By 25% As EVs Quadruple To 11% Market Share—The market is speaking and it wants EVs.  Remember, France is the eight largest car market in the world.  This is not small potatoes.

Norway Hits 64.4% EV Market Share In January, Up 24% Year On Year—Almost two-third market share for pure EVs and plug-in hybrids is insane.  The future is now.

ChargePoint Teams with U.S. Truck Stops to Expand Electric Vehicle Adoption—I use ChargePoint operated charging stations frequently on trips to Iowa City, about twenty five miles from my house, and when I need a top off at work.  I have never had a problem save for not being able to use the charging station because someone beat me to it.  What blew me away about this article was that ChargePoint has places to take their network from ~108K charging stations today to ~2.5 million charging stations in 2025.  Wow!

Americans Still Love Libraries—Libraries are still an important part of our cultural landscape.  Support your libraries.

Let’s Play Chicken—How would anyone know if a chicken nugget did not actually contain any chicken?  It’s like Whit Castle going with an Impossible Burger patty.  The meat is really not the point of the product.  It’s a vehicle for condiments.

Colorado Marijuana, Beer Industries Partner to Recycle CO2—Synergy baby, synergy.

Does Beyond Sausage Smoke?

Hamburger patties get most of the attention when it comes to plant based faux meat.  Why?  America is a land of hamburgers.  It is one of our core national foods.  Fast food restaurants on just about every major intersection sell hamburgers by the bag full.  If one is making a bet on a startup you go where there is a lot of market share to grab.

However, there is a world of delivery vehicles for meat that are not hamburgers or beef analogues.  The next frontier will probably be sausage.  Whether in link form or bulk we also eat a lot of sausage.  It’s on pizzas.  It’s in breakfast burritos.  It’s not the grill right next to the hamburgers.

It looks like the second wave of faux meat from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat is going to focus on sausage.  In this post I am going to take a look at Beyond Meat’s Beyond Sausage:

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This package is the “hot Italian” variety.  At the grocery store there was also a traditional bratwurst variety, but for smoking I thought the spicier variety might work better.

I put the four faux meat links in with two varieties of traditional pork sausage—fresh garlic and Toulouse—from the good people at the Sausage Foundry in Cedar Rapids in the smoker.  At ~225 degrees Fahrenheit the sausages came to temperature fairly quickly and evenly.  All three varieties came to temperature within a few minutes of each other which was nice.

Out of the smoker the Beyond Sausages had turned from a smoky red to a dusty mustard:

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Compared to the traditional pork sausages the grind of the Beyond Sausages was really fine.  It bordered on hot dog consistency in many ways.  The traditional pork sausages had more of the tooth and bite you want out of a link.

In terms of smoke flavor the Beyond Sausage absorbed some, but there was definitely less of an impact compared with the traditional smoked sausages.  This has to be attributed in part of the density of the interior, which is also tied back to the grind.  I wish I had snapped a photo, but you could see a nice quarter inch ring of pink around the circumference of the fresh garlic and Toulouse links.  Those links definitely absorbed more smoke flavor.

Of note was that the spice level was highly variable from one sausage to the next.  The first link that I ate had very little heat, but the second came on with that kick of heat you expect from hot Italian sausage.

It is quickly approaching the point where we are debating whether faux meat alternatives are as good as the meat products that they are intended to replace rather than asking if they are good enough for meat substitutes.  This is where the tipping point for mass adoption occurs because the benefits are so great that “good enough” performance causes people to switch without regret.

Tyson and Nestle Join the Faux Meat Fray

There was a time when meat free alternatives to hamburgers were buried in the bottom shelf of the freezer case of most grocery stores.  Names like Boca and Morningstar Farms were familiar to people trying to avoid animal flesh in their diet while still being able to attend backyard cookouts.

My oh my, have the times changed.  The meat free hamburger patties from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat—the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger respectively—have become the “hot” food items.  Maybe not quite Popeye’s Chicken sandwich territory but popular nonetheless.  Heck, the Burger King near my place of employment has a banner advertising the availability of the Impossible Whopper.  Who would have thought that possible just a few short years ago?

Naturally, as food startups have conducted an insurgency with regard to meat free alternatives the big food companies have not been ignorant or complacent when it comes to the category.  On a recent trip to the grocery store I came across two new entries:

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Raised and Rooted is Tyson Foods brand that is going after the meat free market.  Sweet Earth Foods was an independent company making meat free that was acquired in 2017 by food giant Nestle USA.  Yes, the Raised and Rooted patties were on sale for $3.  Gotta’ love HyVee’s manager’s specials.

I could spend a lot of time going over the ingredients and what not.  Suffice it to say, these are fairly standard “next generation” meat free hamburger patties that eschew black beans and soy for pea protein and coconut oil.

The two patties look fairly different before getting placed on the grill:

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I apologize for not getting some after grilling photos for educational purposes, but dinner was coming together at the same time and the kids were hungry.  Sometimes life just takes over.

Surprisingly, the Raised and Rooted patty was pretty good.  It was good in a fast food innocuous meat kind of way.  The kind of patty that provides enough of a base for some serious condiments.  The patty had enough texture and bite without being overly dense.  This is probably the greatest trick for any fake meat hamburger patty to master as traditional hamburger patties have a strange mixture of crumbly meat and patty integrity.

I am also thankful that the Raised and Rooted patty did not try and emulate any “bleed” from the cooked burger.  I feel that this is the most hyped and unnecessary component of the Impossible Burger.  I do not need a patty to leak a puddle of ersatz meat juice as long as it tastes good.

The Awesome Burger from Sweet Earth Foods was wrong in all the ways that Boca Burgers of the past were guilty.  It cooked down to a dense, somewhat dry puck of protein with a strangely vegetal aftertaste.  This the kind of patty that someone tries once and is done for life.  Come to think of it, the patty exhibited many of the same sins that a frozen pizza from the same company possessed.  It is not enough in this day and age to be just a plant based alternative.  It has to be plant based and good.

Friday Linkage 9/27/2019

I know it has been almost two weeks, but this is my favorite animated GIF ever:

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Every time I hear a fan of Iowa State University say, “We just beat ourselves,” I just think, “No shit, you really did.”

On to the links…

Good News, Bad News: 4 Trends in US Energy Use—Transportation energy use and, by extension, oil consumption are the great hurdle for our transition to a fossil free paradigm.  However, I wonder just how much we could reduce our use of energy in the transportation sector by reduction rather than replacement of usage?

Coal Declining at Quicker Clip than Previously Forecast—Every solar panel that gets hooked up to the grid is a nail in the coffin of coal.  That is what I think about every time I imagine what eight additional panels added to my array mean in the larger scheme of things.

Are 1,600 New Coal-Fired Power Plants Being Constructed Today?—The brief answer is no.  Now that this story has been debunked thoroughly it will probably make it into the next round of Trump rallies.

How Hawaii has Built Momentum to Become a Renewable Energy Leader—Hawaii is our national laboratory for renewable energy.  The state is on course to produce 40% of its energy from renewable sources fairly soon.  We need to be looking to Hawaii and applying lessons learned across the United States.

Solar and Wind Power So Cheap They’re Outgrowing Subsidies—Now, let’s remove the subsidies from fossil fuels and see how things work out.

Residential Solar: Becoming Increasingly Cost-Effective And Customer-Friendly—The market is maturing, transparency is increasing, costs are coming down, and adoption is up.  These are the trends that make something mainstream.  Solar is mainstream.

Getting to 100% Renewables Requires Cheap Energy Storage. But How Cheap?—I think the question is not just the price, but also how much capacity is really required?  We have seen that as states and countries build out renewable energy that the hurdles are less insurmountable than they appeared at first blush.

Is DC Fast Charging Bad For Your Electric Car?—Yes, but not as bad as some pundits would have you believe.

The Rise of Regenerative Agriculture in Colorado—It is not just about saving pristine places anymore.  It is also about restoring the places that we have degraded.  Agriculture can play a role in that restoration.

The Burger Brawl—Do I really care who wins as long as these products replace traditional burgers?

1% of English Residents Take One-Fifth of Overseas Flights—Amazing how it looks like the Pareto principle is at work here.  One percent responsible for 20%, top ten percent responsible for more than 50%…

What Do Evangelical Christians Really Think About Climate Change?—Given that this is a group of people—I am making broad assumptions here—that support Donald Trump despite his blatant non-Christian behavior after years of telling people that they were “values voters” I am inclined to tell evangelical Christians to suck a big, fat one.

Beyond Beef Taco Night

If you have school aged children in any sort of activities you understand the struggle of dinner.  The solution, in my house, is taco night.  A few minutes of prep with some ground beef and a bevy of on hand ingredients mean a quick dinner before running out the door to dance or soccer practice or band…you get the idea.

However, ground beef is an ethical and environmental conundrum.  Regardless of how the animal is raised the production of ground beef results in the death of a cow.  No amount of time on pasture can change this fact.  Furthermore, most cows are raised in conditions that most people find deplorable.  Feedlots and CAFOs are horrible places.  Just driving by one on the interstate can make a person consider becoming a vegan.

America just loves ground beef.  More than half of the beef we consume in this country is in the form of ground beef.  Be it hamburgers, sloppy joes, loose meat sandwiches, chili, etc. Americans eat a lot of ground beef.  Estimates are hard to come by, but the clearest numbers I have seen put our annual consumption north of 30 billion pounds of ground beef consumed in the United States per year.  Most of that ground beef (>80%) comes from feedlot cattle.

This is the market that companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are trying to disrupt with their plant based alternative “hamburgers.”  The ground beef market is not just hamburgers thought and that is where Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef product comes into play:

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It comes out of the package looking a little bit like a brick of protein:

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After a few minutes on medium-high heat the protein begins to break up into that recognizable crumble:

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A package of taco seasoning and a little bit of water gives you a pan full of taco meat.  It all worked just like cooking a pound of regular ol’ ground beef.

So, what is the verdict?

The process is the same as cooking traditional ground beef.  That is a wash.

The flavor is…close.  The texture is…close.  I do not know if it is psychological because I knew it was not actual ground beef or if it is something in the formulation.  It was just a little off in the same way that some meatless burger patties are off.  Perhaps it is the uncanny valley of fake meat.  No longer are we in the trough of the uncanny valley where the simulated product is off by enough to make it truly disturbing.  Instead we are climbing toward true meat replacements in every facet that only lack a few traits.

This has to be what is scaring traditional meat producers into strong arming state legislatures to pass laws banning the word meat or burger or whatever from faux meat products.  When someone who is conscious of the ethical and environmental impacts of meat production is given an alternative that has none of those concerns their choice is going to be easy.  If the meat alternative is close enough in taste and texture than it is a slam dunk for a larger percentage of the population.  Like Republicans holding onto an ageing base of older, rural, white Americans at the expense of a changing national demographic the meat industry is facing an existential crisis brought on by a competitor.

Beyond Beef is not cheap.  At my local coop it cost $9.99 per pound.  Compare that to a pound of grass fed, grass finished beef produced in Minnesota that costs anywhere from $6.99 to $8.99 a pound from the same retailer.  Consider it the cost of being an early adopter.

Friday Linkage 8/9/2019

No links next week since I am going to be on vacation and completely out of touch with the world…at least in terms of electronics.  I am going to enjoy a lot of snorkeling, cold beers, and not worrying about the latest tweet storm coming from our dear leader.

See you in a couple of weeks.

On to the links…

Economic and Environmental Cost of Trump’s Auto Rollback Could be Staggering—Who is surprised that a reactionary rollback of well thought out environmental regulations will have drastic economic and environment costs?  No one raised their hand.  Color me shocked.

Speak Up Now to Save Our National Forests—Another brilliant idea from the people trying to loot our public lands for private gain.

Trump’s Environmental Legacy Will Take Time to Erase—Yes, it will take time.  Yes, it will be undone.  November 2020 is the most important election since the Great Depression.  Look at what four years of Donald Trump has done to America.  Do not try and imagine four more years.

How Climate Change Could Trigger the Next Global Financial Crisis—The next financial crisis, which is coming sooner rather than later, may be exacerbated by climate change or even caused by a climate change related disaster.  Will it still be a Chinese hoax for our tangerine hued leader?

How American Cities Score on Clean Energy—Until sometime in January 2021 we will have to look to American cities for leadership in the clean energy transition.

Why Is U.S. Demand For Solar Panels Booming?—Taking advantage of a tax credit that is due to begin phasing itself out over the next few years may be artificially driving demand for solar panels into 2019, but maybe there is a solid base of demand for homegrown clean energy.

US Utilities to Boost Capital Spending in Shift Away from Coal—Coal fired power plants are going to be considered “stranded assets” in the very near future.  That is to say these power plants will no longer be assets in the traditional sense, with a commensurate value on the open market, but that the intrinsic value will be zero because there is no buyer available on the open market at any price.

1 Stat Shows Coal-Fired Power Plants Have Passed the Point of No Return—The death spiral is real.  It is now just a question of how fast we can retire these coal fired power plants and get on with our lives.

How The Clean Energy Transition Could Save More Than It Costs—The discussion has moved from the feasibility of the clean energy transition to a discussion about the potential cost savings of the transition.  We’re talking about saving money and making clean energy.  The market has spoken.

Using Electricity at Different Times of Day Could Save us Billions of Dollars—Demand or load shifting is one of those holy grails of infrastructure planning.  If you can shift peak demand to other times the load on the overall system is decreased and redundant capacity can be reduced.

Sorry, Scooters Aren’t so Climate-Friendly After All—Lifecycle costs are a bitch, man.  Just get on a bicycle and be done with it.

What Grocery Stores Won’t Tell You About Plastic—Bring all the reusable bags you want to the grocery store.  It’s a start, but until the grocery stores demand changes from their supply chain there will be little real impact in the reduction of single use plastic packaging.

Subway Partners with Beyond Meat as Part of its Comeback Bid—Non-meat meat alternatives are now considered an appealing part of a restaurant’s menu in an effort to combat falling sales and perception issues.  Think about that for a moment.

Friday Linkage 8/2/2019

I say this a lot on this blog, but I have a hard time believing that it is already August.  My kids are three weeks away from going back to school, people are starting to talk about fall sports, and my mind starts to wander to thoughts of skiing.  Pretty soon the miles on the bike will start to decline and the trips to the weight room will increase.  Gotta’ get the knees ready for big days on the mountain.

On to the links…

Just 10% of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Cash ‘Could Pay for Green Transition’—When someone says that we cannot afford to transition to 100% clean energy what they are really saying is that we are choosing not to afford the transition.  There is more than enough money sloshing around in government and corporate coffers to make a renewable energy world possible.

A Wind Turbine Farm The Size Of Delaware Could Power The Entire United States—Take a look at the map and understand just how much or how little area we are talking about here:

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Now imagine we actually utilize the offshore wind resources.  Look at how much coastline there is to develop.  We can make this happen.

Low-Carbon Energy Makes Majority of UK Electricity for First Time—This is not a small island being powered by solar.  This is a large island with a post-industrial economy that got over 53% of its electricity in 2018 from low or no carbon power sources.

Coal’s Demise Quickens in Europe as Market Shift Idles Plants—If no one is lining up to buy the power then the plants will sit idle.  The market is working.

Ohio just Passed the Worst Energy Bill of the 21st Century—This is what you get with Republicans in control.  It is crony capitalism at its finest.  Private companies line their pocket with the public’s money with the consent of elected officials.

Angry about No Pay, Kentucky Miners Block Train Loaded with Coal—The coal industry does not care about the people in their employ.  These companies have never treated their employees with anything but contempt at best and deadly intent at worst.  As coal companies go bankrupt they will continue to use the legal and political system to destroy the land and line their pockets at the expense of the communities in which they operate.

Most EV Charging Infrastructure Is Wasted Due To Lack Of New Thinking—It is not that EV charging spots are not numerous enough considering that anyone with a garage or dedicated parking space probably has access to some level of charging.  It is that the charging infrastructure that exists today may not align with how we drive our EVs.

Minnesota Town Makes do Without being Connected to Power Grid—I know that a lot of us imagine living off the grid, but this is what the reality looks like.

Beyond Meat’s Competitor Impossible Foods Plans to Launch in Grocery Stores in September after getting FDA Approval—I am really looking forward to buying a sleeve of Impossible Burgers and throwing them on my own grill this fall.  What I really want to see is Beyond Meat or Impossible Burger selling sleeves of their plant based goodness at Costco.

Plant-Based Eggs Land their First Major Fast Food Deal—Slaughter houses get a bad rap because they are nasty places, but our eggs are also produced in some fairly brutal conditions.  First the plant based substitutes came for our hamburgers, now they are coming for our eggs.  I welcome the transition.

Can Chefs Learn to Love Cooking Without Fire?—Can we just stop our love affair with primal fire?  I get that something about the flame speaks to our lizard brain, but as someone who has cooked with electricity daily for the past twenty years there is no reason to rely on piping explosive gas into our homes to fuel our gastronomic adventures.

Why Republican Baby Boomers are More Likely to Share #fakenews on Facebook—I rag on Baby Boomers pretty hard, but until someone can show me how this generation has actually made the country a better place I am going to keep piling on.