United Kingdom

Beyond Meat calls for tax on meat to get consumers to eat less

The multi-millionaire founder of the world's biggest plant-based meat firm has called for a new tax on meat to get consumers to eat less.  

Ethan Brown, the CEO of Beyond Meat, a firm valued at $8 billion, told the BBC that he wants a new tax on the consumption of animal products, as well as other activities that have a 'negative' impact on society. 

Mr Brown, 50, who is worth around $500 million, also said that the tax could help increase investment in plant-based proteins - like the kind used by his firm. 

Beyond Meat has a slew of celebrity backers, including Bill Gates and Leonardo Di Caprio. 

The Prime Minister slapped down the report - which also warned that cutting meat consumption by 30 per cent is essential to meet climate change targets and suggested that people could feast on edible algae or fermented protein instead. 

However, Beyond Meat CEO Mr Brown believes that consumers are already eating less meat, despite the outcry over meat tax plans.  

Ethan Brown, founder and chief executive officer of Beyond Meat Inc., center, with his wife Tracy Brown

Beyond Meat's products are made from ingredients like peas and can be found in several popular chains including McDonald's, Subway, KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut

He said: 'If you look at shopper data that we have, 93% of the people that are putting the Beyond burger in their cart are also putting animal protein in.

'That says we're getting more and more penetration into the broadest swath of the market, which is people who are consuming animal protein, but again, are hearing this information about their health or maybe hearing about climate, or maybe uncomfortable with factory farming, they're deciding to cut down on their consumption of animal-based products.' 

Beyond Meat's products are made from ingredients like peas and can be found in several popular chains including McDonald's, Subway, KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

The meat substitute has been criticised for being more expensive than animal alternatives. A recent survey found that 32% of people were put off of plant-based meat by the cost, saying it was too expensive.

Mr Brown believes prices will start to come down over time. He said: 'As we scale, we'll begin to be able to underprice animal protein - if you look at our facilities, and you look at the facilities of say, some of our plant or animal-based competitors, right, we're still a very small company [but] that's going to change.

'One of the reasons I was so focused on these deals with McDonald's and with Yum is because I believe that's the route to [bringing] costs down and to scaling and to being able to make these products accessible to every consumer that wants them.'

Rebecca Scheuneman, an equity analyst at US financial services firm Morningstar, told the BBC that Mr Brown's proposed meat tax would definitely boost his company.     

And the advisory body on climate change says ministers should be urging people to eat less meat in order to protect the climate. 

Health charities and doctors have previously supported plans to tax meat and unhealthy food, which could reduce the need for some expensive medication and treatment. 

However, the food and drink industry trade body warned the extra cost would be passed on to consumers in higher prices in restaurants and supermarkets. 

Critics also warn that any tax on meat would disproportionately affect the less well-off.    

Beyond Meat has a slew of celebrity backers, including Bill Gates and Leonardo Di Caprio

Beyond Meat 'Beyond Burger' patties made from plant-based substitutes for meat products sit on a shelf for sale

But Mr Brown believes his company will continue to grow and urged young people to change their diet to help the environment. 

He said: 'For a few dollars at the centre of your plate, you can communicate what you're about, you don't have to go and buy that Tesla right away or some other electric vehicle, you can start by just doing something really simple, which is changing the protein at centre of your plate.' 

Mr Brown grew up in Washington DC, with his father a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland.  

Before embarking on his lucrative business career, Mr Brown worked in Nicaragua on with a marine biologist before working in Bosnia as a 'very low-level bureaucrat with the State Department'.

He later served as Vice Chairman of the Board at the National Hydrogen Association and Secretary of the U.S. Fuel Cell Council.

In 2009, he visited a research center at the University of Missouri that was looking for additional uses for soybeans. 

There, he met researchers Fu-hung Hsieh and Harold Huff who were working on technology to replicate the texture of meat using plant proteins.  

Mr Brown then acquired the technology license for the process founded Beyond Meat in 2009. 

The company's first products were launched in the United States in 2012.

The $500m founder of Beyond Meat: How father-of-two Ethan Brown quit his job as clean energy executive in 2009 to launch California-based firm which is now worth $8billion and backed by Bill Gates and Leonardo DiCaprio 

Ethan Brown, who lives in southern California with his wife Tracy, son and daughter, quit his job as a clean energy executive in 2009 to launch Beyond Meat. 

In an interview with CNBC, he said he spent his 20s 'working hard' before realising he had to 'take care of my body and mind'. 

He says he takes a half hour break everyday and makes sure he gets home 'at a reasonable hour'. 

Mr Brown also says he exercises 'pretty rigorously', using a company gym in one of Beyond Meat's buildings. 

The CEO grew up in Washington DC, with his father a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland. 

Ethan Brown, founder and chief executive officer of Beyond Meat

He studied history and government at Connecticut College before getting a degree from his father's programmed focused on the environment and an MBA from Columbia.  

Before embarking on his lucrative business career, Mr Brown worked in Nicaragua on with a marine biologist before working in Bosnia as a 'very low-level bureaucrat with the State Department'.

He later served as Vice Chairman of the Board at the National Hydrogen Association and Secretary of the U.S. Fuel Cell Council.

In 2009, he visited a research center at the University of Missouri that was looking for additional uses for soybeans. 

There, he met researchers Fu-hung Hsieh and Harold Huff who were working on technology to replicate the texture of meat using plant proteins.  

Mr Brown then acquired the technology license for the process founded Beyond Meat in 2009. 

The company's first products were launched in the United States in 2012.

Now, the firm is worth £6 billion and has products in several popular chains including McDonald's, Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut.    

It is also backed by several big names, including movie and sports stars, with Bill Gates and Leonardo Di Caprio among the most famous fans of Beyond Meat. 

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