Beyond Meat CEO Defends Tyson Investment

Ethan Brown explains his decision to strike a deal with Tyson in an effort to bring plant-based meat mainstream.

On the heels of the announcement that meat company Tyson Foods invested in Beyond Meat to hold a five percent stake in the plant-based company, Beyond Meat CEO penned a provocative blog entry explaining his motivation to go forth with the deal. Brown reveals that Tyson “touches two of five plates in the United States,” and states that, “the investment provides an opportunity for each party to get to know one another and to explore possible collaborations.” Brown reports that sales of the vegan Beyond Burger—housed in the meat case at select Whole Foods Markets—are encouraging, and point to how shoppers “of varied dietary stripes” are interested in the company’s plant-based alternative to beef. The investment has raised eyebrows on both sides—from vegans who believe Beyond Meat’s relationship with Tyson is unsettling, and conversely, disapproval from Tyson stakeholders. “I don't expect to change Tyson,” Brown says, “Nor does Tyson expect to change me.” Instead, Brown believes this “nascent relationship” is “a sign that we may be moving beyond Oprah v. Cattlemen and toward productive collaboration that expands consumer choice.” Brown explains that his intentions remain rooted in the same goal he’s held all along, which is to build meat from plants. Brown compares animal meat to a landline phone and plant-based meat to an iPhone and asks, “How many of us staunchly defend the landline against the iPhone, or demonize the landline in favor of the iPhone?” Ultimately, according to Brown, the decision lies with the consumer. “Both are phones, just made differently, and the consumer decides.”

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