by Gretchen Schisla
Every day, we see stronger signs that the healthy eating movement is taking deeper root in mainstream America. The August issue of Wired featured an exciting article on LYFE Kitchen (Love Your Food Everyday), and Slate.com wrote about a start-up called Beyond Meat. Both companies are striving to bring food that is healthier to the mass public, but they have their eye on an even bigger prize: developing sustainable and eco-friendly practices for feeding the population.
LYFE Kitchen: Please Pass the Brussels Sprouts
LYFE Kitchen is a concept led by Mike Roberts, former president & COO of McDonald’s and the man responsible for adding sliced apples served with caramel dip to the menu. Mike planned every detail because he understood the vast quantity of apples that would be required to pull it off. Soon after Apple Dippers appeared on the menu, McDonald’s became the nation’s largest seller of apples. Today, he and a group of former McDonald’s leaders are investing in a soon-to-be chain of restaurants that might just shift how we look at fast food.
At LYFE Kitchen, NONE of these ingredients will be used: butter, cream, white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, GMOs, trans fats and additives. Beef will come from grass-fed, humanely-raised cows. Roberts states: “We’re in the middle of the first stage of the food revolution. I’m dreaming of a place where science, medicine, producers, farmers, restaurateurs meet to say we’re on a journey together.” The market research Roberts did at McDonald’s convinced him that mothers (the dominant decision makers at mealtime) are more focused than ever on healthy food. In an effort to make brussels sprouts and quinoa look appealing, the food will look, smell and taste more like an entree from a bistro, not a typical fast food chain meal. Applying his experience in addressing large scale production, Roberts is building a supply chain infrastructure with suppliers in the poultry industry who are cooling birds with chilled air in processing instead of chlorine water baths, and cheese dairies whose cows produce all of the operation’s electricity. He’s also managing brussels sprout farms in California and meeting with Earthbound, the nation’s largest grower of organic produce currently supplying to Costco, Safeway and Walmart. The article goes deep into explaining the processes behind the preparation and delivery of these quality ingredients and meals to customers. Currently, there is one concept restaurant located in Palo Alto, CA, with a second being built in Culver City, CA. They have plans to open 10 new restaurants next year in cities such as New York and Chicago.
LYFE Kitchen considers Whole Foods to be “a model for how responsible food consumption can shift the marketplace. There are 80 million people who have become much more aware of the food they eat. And that’s going to continue as far out as we can see.”
Beyond Meat: This tastes just like real chicken!
Beyond Meat is a company working to create an exceptional product that solves a big problem. Their long term goal is to “offer a product that can satisfy the world’s growing and largely unsustainable demand for meat, especially in ballooning markets such as India and China.” The founder, Ethan Brown, has teamed with Fu-Hung Hsieh and Harold Huff, food scientists at the University of Missouri. They have been working to create a meat substitute for more than a decade.
When Biz Stone, one of the founders of Twitter and a vegan, tried the chicken substitute, he said his first reaction would be to ask the waiter if he had been given the real thing. “This has a very realistic, meaty, delicious quality.” The taste, look and mouthfeel are said to be closer to real meat than anything else, without sodium or other additives as fillers. Other meat substitutes out there include Quorn (made of a mycoprotein fungus), Gardein (which has earned praise for its meaty taste and is a favorite of Ellen DeGeneres) and Field Roast (another well-received brand). Beyond Meat’s process begins with a soy protein powder for beef and pea protein powder for chicken – these are made into a paste and cooked to form the end product.
Brown’s dream is for the fake meat category to be redefined as “proteins” where meat substitutes will be stocked alongside real chicken and beef in the meat section of grocery stores. He is firmly convinced that we’re going to shift from animal based products to plant based products because the water, feed and land required to raise animals to meet demands won’t be sustainable. While Beyond Meat is pushing into expanded production, it hasn’t gone nationwide yet. Currently, chicken strips are available at Whole Foods stores in Northern California and some restaurants and markets in the Washington, DC area.