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Built on MU Professor's Research, Meatless Burger Sells Out

Meatless burger that bleeds beet juice sells out in an hour at its Whole Foods debut

The founders of "Beyond Meat," a plant-based meat substitue producer. The company has a plant located in Columbia, Mo.

It was the steak dinners, Ethan Brown says, that changed his life. He had embarked on a career in the clean energy industry, a path befitting an environmentalist out to save the world. But the incongruity he perceived among his colleagues, who would lament environmental problems while eating beef, pushed Brown — a vegetarian since the age of 18 — in a different direction.

"We would go to conferences and sit there wringing our hands over all these [energy] issues, and then we'd go to dinner and people would order huge steaks," Brown told Popular Science in 2013.

Brown left the energy industry and founded a startup called Beyond Meat in 2009, building on the work of University of Missouri food scientist Fu-hung Hsieh, a pioneer in "high moisture extrusion of fibrous meat analog" — making fake meat taste more like flesh, in other words. Beyond Meat achieved early hype with its Beyond Chicken strips, designed to obliterate memories of limp tofu dogs or crumbly veggie burgers. Observing the strips shred into ligament-like strands at Beyond Meat's factory in Columbia, Mo., Food Network star and author Alton Brown remarked at Wired in 2013, "It's more like meat than anything I've ever seen that wasn't meat."
Beyond Meat bills its latest creation, the Beyond Burger, as the most meat-like non-meat feat yet. It has been on sale for a single day — Monday, in a Whole Foods in Boulder, Colo. — and is already being compared to, as The New York Times puts it, the "holy grail" of ersatz animal protein: A plant burger upon which a human carnivore would happily snack.

A Beyond Burger patty contains 20 grams of vegetable protein, mostly from peas, while lacking gluten and soy. If you prick a Beyond Burger, does it bleed? Yes, the company says, though its blood is pulverized beet juice. Beyond Meat took a completionist approach to its hamburger doppelganger: The Beyond Burger had to look, smell and feel like meat.

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