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You might have noticed a recent addition to your favourite fast-food restaurant’s menu – it’s called Beyond Meat, and it’s typically being served as a burger. Just as the name suggests, the protein is beyond meat – as in completely meatless. Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are racing to tap into the meat eater market by closely mimicking the taste of beef – or, further in the future, working to grow meat in labs.

But aside from using all plant products, what’s Beyond Meat all about, anyway? Can it be trusted? What does it mean for the meat industry, and the world?

Professor in Food Distribution and Policy at Dalhousie University Sylvain Charlebois has the answers to all your questions about the new plant-based protein. He stopped by Your Morning to give us the low-down on Beyond Meat, from the nutritional properties to what it means for the environment.

Are they healthier than regular beef?

As with many questions about diet, it depends. For better or worse, patties from Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods can be nutritionally similar to beef. Beyond Meat’s 4-ounce patty is listed at 270 calories, while Impossible Foods’ is listed at 240 calories. Ground beef’s nutritional profile can range, but a similarly sized patty with 80 per cent lean meat has around 290 calories.

For those who fret about missing out on protein, the plant-based patties’ content is about the same, while other nutrients vary. Some may like that the plant-based patties have fibre, but dislike that they’re higher in sodium. For overall diet, what matters more might be how the patties are served, whether it’s at Burger King, White Castle or elsewhere.

How do they taste?

Taste is subjective, but reviews generally say Beyond Meat and Impossible burgers taste similar to meat. Both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have also updated their recipes, and may keep doing so to get even more like meat. Good news for the ethical carnivores!

Do they cost more?

The idea is to eventually make Beyond and Impossible burgers cost the same or less than beef. For now, expect to pay more. At a Sobeys in Toronto, two Beyond Meat patties cost $7.99, roughly double the price of two ground beef patties. Impossible burgers aren’t yet available in grocery stores.

Are they better for the environment?

Experts say reducing overall red meat consumption would be better for the planet. Beef is considered taxing on the environment because of the resources it takes to grow crops to feed cows. Cows also produce the greenhouse gas methane, mostly through burps.

Are beef companies worried?

They 100 per cent are – Beyond Meat’s debut as a public company may be confirming the meat industry’s concerns. Years ago, a beef group had listed Beyond Meat as an issue to watch, according to public records obtained by the Associated Press.