Appearing on Friday’s AgriTalk, University of California/Davis professor Frank Mitloehner said the ingredients in two of America’s leading plant-based alternative proteins are quite similar to those found in dog food.
Explaining to rather stunned AgriTalk host Chip Flory, Mitloehner said, “When you look at Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat, you will find that they have 21 or 22 highly-processed ingredients. In fact, so processed that you are hard pressed in identifying the difference between those items, versus let’s say, pet food.”
On his Twitter account (@GHGGuru), Mitloehner posted a trivia question asking viewers if they could distinguish the ingredients for the Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat, and a specific brand of dog food. He said the tweet received thousands of responses, most with the wrong answer.
A couple of years ago Mitloehner said he ate dinner at a National Academy of Sciences event with Patrick Brown, the founder of Impossible Foods. At the time, Mitloehner said Brown confessed to eating dog food and called the ingredients wholesome.
“I thought he was joking,” Mitloehner said, “until I did a little research and compared his burger versus Beyond Burger versus dog (food). And guess what? I would not be able to tell the difference. Which is just testament to me that they are actually making something that from a nutritional basis might not be very different from dog food. Then adding the flavors and the taste and the smell and, viola, there is your plant-based alternative to the real thing.”
Flory noted that recent news articles painted Impossible Foods’ CEO Brown as very anti-animal agriculture.
“There’s no question his declared mission is to end animal agriculture by 2035,” Mitloehner said. He has ways to go because his market share is very small at this point. If I were to have a look into my crystal ball, I would say that most likely the big ones will swallow some of the small ones, so to say, and there will be a lot of cannibalism across the terms of plant based segment. And we will see whether or not he succeeds in ending animal agriculture. I know what my bets on.”
Mitloehner says he is not against alternative foods but stands against the way it is being marketed against farmers.
“I’m all for alternatives, okay. I don’t want to be misunderstood. People are saying I don’t like alternatives. If people want to eat it, eat it. What I have a beef with is he makes his business on the backs of our farmers. And he publicly describes the beef sector as filthy, as inhumane, as unsafe, and that is just intentionally misleading. That’s the problem I have.”