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Beyond Meat May Be Bad For The Environment

Jun. 22, 2020 1:41 PM ETBeyond Meat, Inc. (BYND)108 Comments
ValueCatalyst profile picture


  • BYND's supply chain requires excessive fossil fuel transport.
  • BYND encourages Monoculture which is bad for the environment.
  • ESG investors should be cognizant of the reality behind the green facade.

One of the reasons certain investors love Beyond Meat (NASDAQ:BYND) is a belief that it is an eco-friendly company that embraces all that is green. But a closer look reveals a concerning reality that is quite different from this widely held belief. Beyond's supply chain, logistics, and agricultural requirements are, in fact, extremely unfriendly to the environment and generate a substantial carbon footprint and other negative externalities. ESG Investors, in particular, should be cognizant of the reality behind the green facade of Beyond Meat.

Let's break this down into two key components:

  1. Excess shipping and logistics put carbon into the environment
  2. The negative impacts of monoculture

Convoluted Supply Chain = Large Carbon Footprint

Beyond's CEO Ethan Brown is fond of repeating the mantra that it takes less water and land to create a Beyond Meat burger than it does a real beef burger. But what he fails to disclose during these sound bites is that the amount of energy required to get the raw materials from all over the world to Beyond's manufacturing facility, process them, pass them along to a slew of co-manufacturers and distributors, and finally ship to the end consumers is enormous.

Let's take a closer look at the manufacturing process as it's described in Beyond Meat's 10-K.

Pea Protein is shipped from all over the world, including China and Europe, into ports in the United States.

That product is then shipped via trucks/rail from the coastal ports to Beyond's manufacturing facility in Columbia, MO.

Page 10 of BYND's 10-K reveals that these raw materials are then combined to form a 'dry blend' which "then enters our extruder, where both water and steam are added. We then use a combination of heating, cooling, and variations of pressure to weave together the proteins. The formed woven protein is

This article was written by

ValueCatalyst profile picture
ValueCatalyst has 20+ years experience conducting research in and managing a long-short private portfolio of public equities. ValueCatalyst looks for special situations that are misunderstood by the mainstream investment community. Sector focus is retail. ValueCatalyst holds the CFA designation.

Analyst’s Disclosure: I am/we are short BYND. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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Comments (108)

29 Jun. 2020
WHAT?! They have to use trucks to get this to my table!? Are you kidding me right now? What about the mushrooms and swiss cheese I put on it? Does that have to go on a truck?
TheChuck profile picture
"via energy-intensive refrigerated trucks"

Obvious bias just in the wording selection... It's called "refrigerated trucks" the same trucks that carry meat, or any other food that requires refrigeration.

Let's stick with facts please. You're not factoring in the trucking/processing/growing of food for the animals that become meat for starters.
Damir Bobojanov profile picture
So many opinions here that have noting to do with investing or shorting the stock. )))
BYND could use an intro to NKLA to ship its soylent green.
Highly processed crap, that tastes as such.
Blackmolly profile picture
The Tesla of the processed food industry.
Full disclosure: I do not, nor have I ever, own(ed) BYND. I do not particularly care for plant based meat substitutes. That said, this hit piece is laughable. Even a carnivore like me realizes that the long-term protein needs of the planet will have to be met largely by plant based products.
Moon Kil Woong profile picture
Won't most of these issues be resolved if it grows and is able to build its own pea production (hopefully greenhouses). Of course demand will soar so hopefully they will be on the forefront of building greenhouses like Europe is doing to feed their population. I think it is way too early to cite them for long supply chains at this point.
@Moon Kil Woong Those peas are grown in massive fields and sprayed multiple times with insecticides, herbicides, and are desiccated for harvest.
Not necessarily. Might require one spray if weeds become too thick.
Might require one spray if harmful insects infest the crop, but doesn't always happen.
I've grown sweet peas as a cover crop after winter wheat and I have never had to spray with anything, and I'm not an organic farmer.
iranirenberg profile picture
Your thesis appears predicated on false equivalences, at best.
From a global perspective, animal agriculture and its reliance on massive land use in the form of monocultures devoted to corn and soy production has been well documented for decades. The old trope concerning the Amazon being burned to clear land to support agribusiness directly related to beef production is not overblown or a myth, or fake news.
I believe a well research approach to you topic would show conclusively that small farmers using organic (grass feed beef), no antibiotics, etc, represents a negligible amount of the meat produced throughout the world. And that if the world were to transition (even to only Beyond Meat) the global environmental footprint would be drastically reduced.
Actually, deforestation is a bit more complicated than your portrayal. Damn building for mining requires infrastructure that makes land more accessible for timber extraction, land grabbing, and land speculation. After timber is removed, land is flipped for huge profits to ranchers, who after two years (due to the soy moratorium) flip the land again to soya growers. Without the moratorium, like in the Cerrado, land goes straight into soy or other crops. Soya has two main products oil and meal. The oil is 20% of the volume but 35 to 40% percent of the value of the crop. Oil goes exclusively to human uses. The meal goes mainly to pig CAFO's in China and chicken CAFO's in Brazil. Next in line for the meal is pet food. Then human food and dairy. Very little meal goes to beef cattle. The portion of soy that goes to beef cattle are the husks that's a by-product of the crushing industry industry.

Regardless, only 6% to 7% of global beef cattle inventory is in the Amazon. None should be there. But with or without beef cattle or soy, mining, timber extraction, land grabbing and land speculation will continue in the Amazon due to corruption and greed. The only difference is that different crops like cotton and palm fruit will be planted as monocrops instead.

Using monocrops differently for plant based analogs doesn't change anything, since the real issue is industrial agriculture. That is degenerative versus regenerative agriculture.....not plants versus meats.
There is also the fact that you have to feed the cow ..

16 lbs of grain( well use grain for general purposes ) = 1lb of beef

16lbs of grain can feed 30 people

1 lb of beef can feed 1/3 a person..

This is a pretty substantial factor
fluctuatnecmergitur profile picture
I've been able to judge the quality of one part of the analysis and the result is very bad. "A French company called Roquette Freres which also sells chemicals, pet feed, plasticizers, polyesters, and polyurethanes." is a gross mischaracterization of the company and beyond sloppy investigation. One would have to click deep in the company's website to even see anything about polyesters, deep enough to understand that Roquette Frères is a 100% plant-based company that made it big in finding ever more precise applications for potato starch. They've started doing the same with beans now and are simply selling bio-based extracts for pretty much everything, including bisphenol A (BPA) alternatives. The rest seems as bad...
fluctuatnecmergitur profile picture
Regarding the sourcing, contradicting the fact that "In terms of the suppliers themselves, it's worth noting that the pea protein is sourced from all over the globe.", shipping will be driven down as Roquette is launching a new pea protein processing facility in Manitoba which will supply the US-manufactured Beyond Meat facilities, while the Dutch facility will be sourcing from northern France.
Industrial potato production is some of the worst agricultural practices done. This production involves heavy tillage, monocropping, lots of fungicides. and bare fallows. So basically the soil ecosystem is destroyed. Nothing to hang your hat on.
Disclaimer: I’m long, for now, BYND and have never tried it. I like to see balance not a single sided story line. Given this product line is in it’s infancy, efficiency will come with time if there is a consistent and growing market for the “Better Mousetrap”. Had no idea peas were a major component but will tell you the US AG community will rise to the call as the demand for pea nutrients grows. The fresh pea market has dried up considerably and production has fallen off in the past few decades where it is Dry Land farmed, I.e. doesn’t require irrigation, to grow. It was a good crop rotation in wheat country where most went to frozen peas. I personally don’t have reason the green footprint will take BYND down.
Let's look at beef:
-Cows are a monoculture, are they not? You can't grow any other crop on cow land while cows are there.
-Cows require you to monoculture their food on land that could be monoculturing food for you and your family.
-Cows and their food require a ton of water to grow.
-The cow food has to be hauled in trucks to the cow farm.
-The cows too must be transported to slaughter in gas guzzling trucks (in relatively small loads because they are alive and can't be stacked)
-They get slaughtered, butchered and washed... more fuel and water consumed.
-Now the meat gets transported to warehouses in gas guzzlers... and must be kept refrigerated at all times which takes a lot of power.
-And most of all... if you replaced cows with vegetable alternatives, you fully double your food production. All the cow feed land is now making human food, plus the cow land is still growing human food. Twice as much food for less fuel cost... it's a win-win.
...The only downside is american men who measure their masculinity in animal carcasses consumed. Just convince people that it's manly to maximize production efficiency and you're set.
VictorLaslo profile picture
"Cows are a monoculture, are they not?"

Incorrect. Read "The Omnivore's Dilemma". Cows and beef CAN be part of a self sustaining farming system. Cows eat the grass, the cow manure is used to replenish the soil, the grass and other vegetables grow. It's an entirely natural cycle. Granted, the gigantic feed lots in the middle of the US are the horrifying opposite of sustainable farming. But if communities were surrounded by small, sustainable farms raising a large variety of foods (beef, chicken, vegetables, etc) the world would be a better place.

The bottom line is, there is absolutely no way a small local farm (or anything small) could produce something as complicated and overproduced and singularly sourced like Beyond Meat. There are probably other alternative ways to make artificial meat that are sustainable, but I would compare Beyond Meat to the giant beef feed lots. It's just the wrong way to feed people.
LOL ...this reply is pretty funny. Most beef cattle inventory is on cow-calf and stocker operations in grassland ecosystems. That's true even in the US where yearlings are finished in feedlots. Feedlots use a lot of industrial Ag crops that have a myriad of uses including industrial seed oils(soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, etc) that are used for cooking, processed foods, industrial uses, ethanol, biofuels, etc. So a lot of what ends up being fed as rations in feedlots are crop residues or by-products of industrial Ag like dried distilled grains [DDG] from the ethanol industry. So the land used to grow monocultures for animals feeds already is being used to grow monocultures for the processed food industry.

Nothing changes with these plant based proteins. They just redirect more of these industrially grown crops to ultra-processed foods that are very similar in composition to pet food. The big motivation to do this is larger margins and the ability to control markets through intellectual property. But what's going to ultimately cause Beyond Meat to lose value is that a lot of other players are going to come to the market with their products including the large meat companies that are rebranding as protein companies.

Now beef cattle and crops can be raised in different ways that are beneficial. One of these ways is through reintegrating cattle with or without other ruminants into cropping systems. So BOTH cattle AND crops on the SAME land. In such systems, cattle can graze down DIVERSE cover crops and crop residues and thus reduce or eliminate the need for herbicides (e.g. glyphosate) and synthetic/mined NPK fertilizers. Plus the cattle improve nutrient cycling and provide biostimulants that help build soil. Best of all, this makes farming more profitable for farmers. This is a regenerative system of crop and beef cattle production. Cattle can be finished this way or delivered to feedlots at much higher weights so less time in a feedlot is required for finishing.

So that's the real distinction that needs to be made...degenerative (industrial) production for meats and plants versus regenerative production of meats and plants. Beyond Meat is more of the same old degenerative production for an unhealthy ultra-processed facsimile that's horrific for the environment.
Great comment! Beyond Meat is still in it's infancy, they will make the supply chain more efficient in time. You can say the same about electric driving etc. And even if beyond meat is not greener, which is false, at least it stops farm animal abuse. I can live with a 10% market share...
Several commenters ask for a thorough environmental impact study to back this analysis. The problem is that BYND CEO hasn’t produce that analysis before making his claim and that such analysis is difficult, expensive, and lack robustness (report totally depends on model specification). In the context of SA, I find that the author did enough to put forward his perspective on a BYND message that otherwise does not get scrutiny.
CO2 profile picture
there is a 2018 UMich study-
Dude it's pointless with some people. They just dont want to accept things, bit I applaud your effots..

3 stages of truth:
1. Ridicule
2. Violent opposition
3. Acceptance

In 10 years when augmented reality is a norm amd people can see how their food is made from its inception to the plate - noone will want that garbage..

Beyond to the moon
Voice of reason, thank you
lukascech profile picture
The first point only holds if you compare it to say farming your own chicken or potatoes. But compare that to any animal agriculture and you'll find out that they transport a sh*tload more stuff just to grow a cow that makes that burger. And we haven't even ventured into the diseases & antibiotics territory.

Please don't punish a good company for not doing something 100% ecologically. It's a business, it has to balance both - being ecological and being profitable. They do it WAY better than animal agriculture.
Damir Bobojanov profile picture
Good points to think about. Though I will side with guys who tell it should be compared with current meat-industry footprint.

Short-thesis must always be there. Coz the opposite opinion brings more info to the party, thus better decisions.
Missing analysis of control, i.e. comparison to real meat manufacture plus distribution. Does BYND production generate bigger or smaller environmental footprint compared to traditional meat?
22 Jun. 2020
If its healthier then meat it does not matter to me. If is taste good and is a better choose is all I care about.
@Bsmena It’s not healthier. It’s more processed garbage that has made us sick and fat. Big processed food companies pump the propaganda about healthy. Go back to real food like meat, eggs, butter, cheese, vegetables, seasonal fruit. We evolved to the top of the chain eating that way.
@Sureshot941 Dude your telling people to clog their arteries, promote plaque and put those bodies at risk for cancer..highly irresponsible. Homework for you: Forks over knives ( movie ), Gamechangers ( movie ) and What the Health ( movie ) ... All created/ produced to spread awareness...I dont know where you get your info from, but just because our ancestors did something , doesn't mean we are anatomically appropriated to it...There is a contextual difference ( if you havent noticed yet )
Those are the most bogus "documentaries" ever, complete vegan propoganda. You have it all backwards. How did we evolve to be the superior animal on the planet? You need to look at the low carb world and see the responses to those bogus films. The president of the AHA literally had a heart attack at their convention. The hype is dieing for plant based but the associations are quietly walking back their junk scinece to keep from being sued into non-existence. The AHA literally has reversed on saturated fat. The ADA is now for low carb. Dude, you need to stop being a sheeple to the SDA propoganda. They will tell you anything in the name of religion. "Fat:A Documentary" is free on Amazon prime, check it out.
Tedamerica profile picture
I cannot fathom someone of any intelligence trying to sell a short argument on BYND by claiming its bad for the environment.
Beyond Meat isn't just bad for the environment. Beyond Meat being entirely reliant upon industrial Ag is HORRIFIC for the environment. It's also horrible for your health. Whatever plants or meats you eat, find plants and meats from regenerative food systems that are minimally processed. Read: lachefnet.wordpress.com/...
Tedamerica profile picture
You're wrong .. and I mean that in a non insulting matter of fact way. Just google one of their many nutritional ingredients - pea protein and discover for yourself why it is better for you .....

Also I expect the future will see Beyond Meat becoming a super nutritional powerhouse a designer product..... If you want good fats they will have that,,,,, If you need more protein because of your lifestyle I can see that being added as well. Im flattered that I realized how great a product this has the potential to be ... and all based on my own research and convictions.

The space at our major grocery store - is half gone to all gone whenever you get there. The Bratwursts are always gone... I was lucky enough to get one package of them and they were delicious.

Best wishes
@Tedamerica You’re reading SDA propaganda to think this way. SDA is the birthplace of vegan and will tell you anything to get you to bend to their religious beliefs.
Well, it’s disclosed that you’ve are shorted the stock, so that’s worth noting.

It’s also worth noting that according to Rhodium, cows emit enough methane that would make them the sixth largest emitter in the world (if cows were a country).
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