Meatless Monday

Recently, a private University in my home state of South Dakota  announced that they will be implementing a “Meatless Monday” program.  This is supported by their claims that plant based proteins offer more nutritive value than meat and that meat is generally more expensive than plant-based proteins.  I’d like to take a little time today to talk about these two points and see how they really add up.

Plant based proteins offer more nutritive value than meat.

The South Dakota Beef Industry Council shares this graphic and I think it is really eye opening.  I’ll admit that it is easy to assume that plant -based proteins will offer more protein per calorie than meat.  But in all reality, when looking at the quantity of these products that need to be consumed to reach the protein level provided by one serving of beef, we quickly see that it is not the case. 

Per 25 g protein:

Quinoa: 666 calories

Peanut butter: 613 calories

Beef: 173 calories

In addition to being low calorie, that one serving of beef provides 10 essential nutrients- Protein, Iron, Choline, Selenium, Vitamin B, Zinc, Phosphorus, Niacin, Riboflavin.  It offers an incredible amount of nutritive value!  

Meat is generally more expensive than plant-based proteins.

In addition to an animal science degree, I also received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business.  The business side of me always perks up when I hear claims of ‘more expensive’.  It is time to crunch some numbers.

I have heard a lot of talk recently about the Beyond Burger, so I thought that would be a great example to look at.  When initially comparing the Beyond Burger pricing vs. the ground beef patties, it appears to be less expensive.  However, looking further we see that on a per pound basis, the Beyond Beef patties are almost twice the price of both ground beef patties (the difference in the patties is the fat content.  80% lean vs. 93% lean.  The 93% lean is more expensive on a per pound basis because it has a lower fat content).   Don’t let the face value of a product lead you astray.  It is important to judge actual economic value of a product not on the simple  dollar value it receives, but price per pound basis.  It is amazing how much of a difference that can make!

Image and Price from Walmart.com

One other thing that I think is interesting to point out about the Beyond Burger is the ingredient list.  Consumers continually demand a high quality product with a clean label. Looking at the Beyond Burger ingredient list we see that it contains over 15 ingredients! 

“Water, pea protein isolate*, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, rice protein, natural flavors, mung bean protein, methylcellulose, potato starch, contains 1% or less: apple extract, salt, potassium chloride, vinegar, lemon juice concentrate, sunflower lecithin, beet juice extract, pomegranate fruit powder, lycopene color (from tomato).”

Now let’s compare that ingredient list to that of the ground beef patties:

“Ground Beef and Natural Flavorings.”

Two ingredients!  That’s it!  The Food Safety Inspection Service allows spices and seasonings such as black pepper, onion powder, and garlic to be defined as natural flavorings.  It is a simple product that offers so much to the consumer. 

Simply put, animal based proteins are a relatively low calorie, low cost option that are supported by a clean label. Protein takes up a large portion of the grocery budget.  We all want to feed our families a high quality product.  When thinking about it in that sense, meat offers the most bang for your buck. For that reason,  I plan to keep meat in my diet on Mondays, and every other day of the week!

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