Beyond Meat Review: Why We Don't Think It's Healthy

Beyond Meat Review: Why We Don't Think It's Healthy


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Illuminate Labs Beyond Meat review article header image

Beyond Meat is one of the most popular plant-based meat alternative brands. The brand describes their products as "packed with flavor, not cholesterol" and claims that meat made from plants is the "better-for-you option."

But is plant-based meat actually healthier than meat from animals or are these just marketing claims? What ingredients do Beyond Meat products contain and are there any questionable additives? And how do real users rate and describe the taste of Beyond Meat?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we review the ingredients in Beyond Burger and Beyond Breakfast Sausage based on medical studies to give our take on whether or not the products are actually healthy.

We'll highlight some questionable additive ingredients in both products, share real, unsponsored user reviews including taste tests, and give our take on whether plant-based meats are healthier than regular meat based on clinical research.

We'll also highlight some crazy news stories that came out about Beyond Meat in 2022 including a mold outbreak and a top executive being arrested for biting another person's nose in a road rage incident.

Beyond Burger Review

Beyond Burger Ingredients list

Beyond Burger is the most famous product from Beyond Meat, and its ingredients are shown above.

Pea protein is the primary protein source, and an excellent choice for vegan protein since it’s a complete protein containing all essential amino acids. A clinical trial published in the Sports journal found that pea protein was just as effective as whey protein in promoting strength and muscular improvements in response to exercise.

Methylcellulose is used as a thickening agent, but is also clinically shown to be a laxative at doses as low as 1 gram. We find this to be a strange ingredient choice.

Natural flavors is an ingredient that health-conscious consumers may wish to avoid. As we referenced in our LMNT review article, some natural flavoring compounds have been shown in research studies to be potentially toxic.

Many of the remaining ingredients are a vitamin and mineral blend including potassium chloride and vitamin B12. We recommend getting vitamins and minerals from whole foods and avoiding processed food products with vitamin and minerals added.

A YouTube creator named "The Isolation Station" who typically eats meat gave an honest review of the product:

We Tried Beyond Meat – Our Take

Beyond Meat UGC

As one of the authors of this article (Calloway), I wanted to try Beyond Meat myself to share my thoughts on its taste and the overall product experience.

It was difficult to tell when the "meat" was done cooking, since its color can't be used as an indicator.

The product label says to cook each side for four minutes on a skillet, but the patties didn't seem done after that so I cooked them a little bit longer.

Both the texture and the taste are absolutely horrible in my opinion. The texture is stringy and not nearly as dense as meat. It does not taste like meat at all to me, but rather like old tofu blended with tamari.

I am not a vegan. I eat grass-fed red meat occasionally, and when I do I feel like I'm eating a nutritious, whole food meal. This felt to me like some bioengineered garbage but perhaps that's a placebo effect.

I tried one of these patties alone to study its taste, and then ate the other in a bowl mixed with other ingredients like rice, veggies and hot sauce.

The bad taste was so overpowering that it made the whole bowl taste bad even when it was just a small portion.

I would never purchase this product again, even if I were a vegan. 

I would rate this product 1/10.

Is Plant-Based Meat Healthier?

There's a significant amount of debate online about the healthiness of plant-based meats, so we'll give our take based on a review of clinical research.

Plant or animal products aren't inherently healthier than one another in our opinion; it depends on the specific type of food. 

We know from extensive medical research that processed meat intake (especially processed meat intake from conventionally-raised animals) is associated with an increased risk of overall mortality, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer.

We consider plant-based meat alternatives like Beyond Sausage to be healthier than processed meat sourced from conventionally-raised animals.

But unprocessed meat sourced from pastured animals is some of the most nutrient-dense food available, including "health-promoting phytonutrients" like antioxidants according to a medical review published in the Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems journal.

We consider unprocessed, pastured meat eaten in moderation to be healthier than processed plant-based alternatives like Beyond Burger.

medical review published in the Nutrients journal examined whether plant-based meat alternatives were healthy or not, and concluded that "Due to the high degree of processing of the foods studied here, they can nevertheless not be recommended for the daily diet."

There isn't enough research in our opinion to state that plant-based meat is healthier than meat, and our general position is that the minimal processing of the diet is the most important factor for health and wellness.

A YouTube creator named "Mic the Vegan" analyzed results from a clinical trial that directly compared the health effects of Beyond Meat with a diet containing meat:

Bad Press for Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat was in the news for all of the wrong reasons in 2022. 

In September, one of the company's executives was arrested for assaulting someone, biting their nose and making terroristic threats according to NPR. He has since pleaded not guilty.

Then in November, a Bloomberg report found mold and unsanitary conditions at one of the company's production facilities, as well as internal documents showing that Beyond Meat products tested positive for a pathogenic bacteria called listeria 11 different times.

The report is behind a paywall, but here's a Gizmodo YouTube video breaking it down that shows some of the images from the facility:

Beyond Breakfast Sausage Review

Beyond Breakfast Sausage ingredients

Beyond Breakfast Sausage has a nearly identical ingredient list to Beyond Burger.

There are no ingredients of note that differ. Pea protein is still used as the base vegan protein, while the questionable additives methylcellulose, natural flavors and the vitamin and mineral blend remain.

A YouTube channel called "TWO MODERN VEGANS" reviewed the taste of Beyond Breakfast Sausage:

Real Beyond Meat Customer Reviews

Beyond Meat is sold on Amazon, which is a more objective resource for customer reviews than a brand's website in our opinion. Beyond Breakfast Sausage is the most-reviewed product, with over 11,000 total reviews and an average review rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

The top positive review comes from a user named "Dave Gordon" who gives the product a 5-star rating and claims that the taste is exactly like real pork:

"I've tried Morningstar, Quorn, and several other brands, but this tastes the most like the pork sausage I ate when I was a kid and didn't know any better."

The top negative review is written by a user named "ANM" who gives the product a 1-star rating and claims that the smell and taste is terrible:

"They tasted like the smell of burning plastic, no joke. I stuck one on top of a JUST Egg patty to make a vegan McMuffin and even the amazing egg patty couldn't save this. The texture is fine, but the taste really made me feel like I was eating something toxic. I tried eating another one just to see if it was a fluke, but nope! Into the trash they went. I can still smell them if I close my eyes... gross."

Our Healthy Vegan Brand Recommendations

We recommend Daily Harvest as our top healthy, vegan food brand.

Daily Harvest meals are entirely composed of nutritious, whole food ingredients. Many of their meals contain ingredients Americans aren't likely to come across in their regular diet such as pearled fonio, cremini mushrooms and dragon fruit.

Dietary diversity is proven in medical research to be essential to a healthy digestive tract and gut, and Daily Harvest makes it easy to access a wide variety of different health-promoting plant compounds because of how many different ingredients the brand uses. 

Interested consumers can check out Daily Harvest at this link to the brand's official website.

For consumers who want vegan meat replacements specifically, we recommend the brand Hilary's over Beyond Meat. Here's an Amazon link to Hilary's official product listings. The brand sells everything from veggie burgers to veggie sausages to bean burgers, and their products are made entirely from whole food ingredients with no questionable additives.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

Beyond Meat makes decent plant-based meat alternatives and their replacements for processed meat like sausage may be healthier than the real thing. We don't recommend any Beyond Meat products due to the additive ingredients.

For vegan consumers seeking a plant-based meat alternative, we'd recommend a brand called Hilary's over Beyond Meat, because Hilary's is free of any questionable additives and is made using only whole food ingredients.

We haven't come across any convincing evidence that plant-based meat alternatives are healthier than unprocessed meat sourced from pasture-raised animals. We consider plant-based meat alternatives to be healthier than processed meat like breakfast sausages, but we consider unprocessed meat like ground beef sourced from pastured animals to be healthier than processed vegan meat alternatives.

Beyond Meat suffered some bad press in 2022 including the ridiculous headline about their executive biting a man's nose in a road rage incident, but user reviews of the products online and their taste are relatively favorable.