NMU 144 – Beyond Meat vs Beef Patty
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 144 (September 18, 2019)
with Dr. James Meschino
Topic: Beyond Meat Burgers: Are they good for you and the planet?
Source: Medium: Fueled by Science
In this update, I’d like to share with you the hard facts comparing beef patties to the Beyond Meat patties, which are becoming very common in many fast-food outlets. I’d like to address not only their nutritional value but also their effects on greenhouse gases, the planet’s resources, as well as animal welfare.
So, let’s begin: There are currently 1.5 billion cows on the planet. Methane release, primarily from cows, accounts for 7 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 equivalents) each year. Compare this to 6.9 gigatons of greenhouse emissions occurring from all transport systems across the globe, including road, air, rail and maritime. So, livestock, especially cows, emit as much or more greenhouse gas than all the cars, trucks, planes, trains and boats. That’s quite astounding really. From a resource standpoint, compared to a quarter pounder of red meat (beef), to produce the Beyond Meat burger requires 99% less water, 93% less land use, generates 90% fewer greenhouse gasses, and requires 46% less energy to produce. Animal welfare impact is also eye-opening. The world average beef consumption is around 100 pounds (40kg). The US and Canada are far above average, nearly doubling this amount. So, Canada and the U.S are heavy-duty beef consumers compared to many other countries.
From a nutritional standpoint, the Beyond Meat Burger is Gluten-free and GMO-free. It’s made from water, pea protein (a respectable protein source), canola oil (monounsaturated fat), and coconut oil (very high in saturated fat, which raises blood cholesterol and makes your blood very sticky). A Beyond Meat patty contains the same amount of total protein as beef patty – 20 grams of protein – a very respectable amount. Also, impressive, the Beyond Meat patty provides 3 gm of fiber whereas beef patties contain no fiber. The Beyond Meat burger contains 300 mg of sodium more than a beef patty, but over the course of the day, that’s not a big amount. Most of us can safely consume 2,000 to 3,000 mg of sodium per day. A Beyond Meat patty contains 380 mg. The biggest drawback to the Beyond Meat patty is the number of grams of total fat and especially saturated fat. The total fat in a Beyond Meat patty is 20 grams (Beef patty – 18 grams), and the total number of grams of saturated fat in the Beyond Meat patty is 5 gm (vs 8 gm in the beef patty). Admittedly, some of the 5 grams of saturated fat in the Beyond Meat patty are medium-chained fatty acids, which do not raise cholesterol levels, but most of those grams are from long-chain fatty acids that do raise blood cholesterol levels. One of the reasons I caution people about eating beef is the high concentration of cholesterol-raising saturated fat in all beef and red meat products. But the same caution applies to the Beyond Meat patty. Recent studies have shown that coconut oil consumption raises cholesterol levels (total cholesterol and bad LDL-cholesterol). So, replacing a beef patty with a Beyond Meat patty is likely not going to do anything positive to lower cholesterol level, as would be the case when choosing most other plant-based alternative foods. In fact, eating the Beyond Meat patty might even raise your blood cholesterol, depending on how you are substituting the Beyond Meat patty into your diet.
However, not all meat alternative patties are high in fat and saturated fat. As an example, Yves Gluten-Free Veggie Burgers contain only 6 grams of fat and only 0.5 gm of saturated fat, while providing 13 grams of protein, and only 140 total calories. In my view, this is a better alternative to beef patties if you are preparing food at home. And Yves also makes veggie hot dogs, other meat alternatives for use in chilies, cabbage rolls, lasagna’s, etc. They also make veggie breakfast sausages and deli slices. In each case the fat and saturated fat content are very low, making them, in my opinion, a very attractive meat alternative option. Keep in mind that plant-based meat alternative foods usually contain no vitamin B12 and are very low in iron and some other minerals that are normally found in meat products. However, you can easily meet your vitamin and mineral requirements each day without having to eat red meat. I do it all the time and so do many others.
For me, the bottom line is that I don’t think beef patties or the Beyond Meat patty are foods you should consume on any level of frequency, if at all. I like the idea of the plant-based meat alternatives that are low in fat and saturated fat, such as the Yves brand (but there are other brands out there, it’s just a matter of reading labels). These smarter plant-based choices can help lower your cholesterol and keep it down and reduce your cancer risk compared to regular red meat consumption. And they help reduce greenhouse gases, and preserve many of the planet’s valuable resources, not mention their positive impact on animal welfare.
So, that’s my take. I have included the references for this information in the text below.
2. Yves Veggie Burgers: http://yvesveggie.com/en/products/
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