Beyond Meat introduces animal product substitute


Sophie Whyte

photo-1-640x480 (1)Meet the man who is redefining meat: Fu-Hung Hsieh. Beyond Meat, a new company providing a nutritious animal product alternative, is skyrocketing, and it was all possible thanks to Hsieh, an innovator right here at the University of Missouri- Columbia. The company was listed by CNN and Forbes as one of the most innovative rising companies and was also backed by Bill Gates. Hsieh, professor of bioengineering and food science at the University of Missouri- Columbia, helped create a new meat substitute product made from vegetables that mimics the texture of muscle meat from animals.

“This was started in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s … in the Food Engineering Lab at University of Missouri,” Hsieh said. “The desire to create a product having quality attributes that meet the needs and acceptance of consumers was in my mind when I came.”

Beyond Meat commercialized the mock chicken product, and it has appeared in various restaurants around the country. Within Columbia, the product is being used by Main Squeeze, Smokin’ Chick’s BBQ, Natural Grocers and Clover’s Natural Market. Junior Mikayla Roach said products like Beyond Meat are helpful in supplementing her meat-free diet.

“Being a vegetarian really limits the things I can eat,” Roach said. “So I’m always open to trying new things … I personally really like [meat alternatives].”

Faux-meat products, such as the popular brand Tofurky, became more common in recent years to accommodate for those who don’t eat meat for health, religious or ethical reasons. Meat is also a luxury food product for many in third world countries, since it takes many resources to produce.

“Meat, in the form of animal flesh, and fish are the most common sources of high protein food,” Hsieh said. “However, often-times the high cost of meat products prohibits people from buying them and, thus, makes them unavailable to many people in the world.”

Senior Sara Ashbaugh said inventing Beyond Meat was a good move on the part of Hsieh. It is a very lucrative product to have on the market today, she said.

“I think it was very smart of [Hsieh] to make this,” Ashbaugh said. “I think that there’s a large market out there for meat substitutes that only a few companies take advantage of, that I’ve seen.”

In 1999, the Federal Drug Administration claimed “Soy protein, combined with a diet low in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Hsieh’s product has higher levels of protein than chicken, and also has no cholesterol or saturated fats.

“I would like to see the product quality continue to improve and the product become more affordable by the general public,” Hsieh said. “So that more people will [benefit] from its nutritional quality.”

By Sophie Whyte