Disgusting conditions have been revealed at a Beyond Meat Plant in Pennsylvania. The photos reveal mold in and around food-production and storage equipment, raising serious questions about the safety of the company’s alternative meat products.

The story, which was broken by Bloomberg, comes at a difficult time for Beyond, as sales and stocks continue to plummet and a senior member of staff is embroiled in scandal.

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Beyond Meat: disgusting conditions

Images courtesy of Bloomberg.com

“Photos and internal documents from a Beyond Meat Inc. plant in Pennsylvania show apparent mold, Listeria and other food-safety issues, compounding problems at a factory the company had expected to play a major role in its future,” reported Bloomberg yesterday.

“Products from the plant tested positive for Listeria, a harmful bacteria, on at least 11 occasions during the second half of last year and the first half of 2022, according to an internal document provided by a former employee concerned about conditions at the plant. The occurrence of the bacteria at the facility was confirmed by two former employees, who asked not to be named discussing private information about the company. While Listeria is frequently present at food plants, it’s more unusual for it to be found in the products themselves.” 

The photos were taken by a former employee from inside the plant in January and April. Leaked documents also revealed that foreign materials had repeatedly been found in food from the plant.

Beyond Meat has maintained that its hygiene standards “go above and beyond industry and regulatory standards.”

“External third-party audits, including our most recent third-party audit in May 2022, gave the plant the highest-possible rating in each of the last three years,” a spokesperson said. Beyond Meat added that the company is in good standing with Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture.

Plant-based meat: sagging fortunes

Plant-based meat, touted as one of the foods of the future, continues to suffer flagging sales, as well as the perception that it is “too woke”, according to Bloomberg.

As the new outlet reported recently,

“Just a few years ago, with a blockbuster initial public offering from Beyond Meat Inc. and the unveiling of an Impossible Whopper at Burger King locations nationwide, plant-based meats were ascendant. 

Now, after once enjoying double-digit growth, sales in the plant-based meat category are not just flat but declining, according to data from Information Resources Inc., or IRI. That’s due to possible saturation of the US market as new brands hit the shelves, according to Deloitte Consulting LLP.” 

Most notably, sales of refrigerated meat alternatives were down 10.5% for the 52 weeks ended September 4 2022.

According to a market-research expert, this is partly because of the growing cost-of-living crisis, which means consumers are favoring the real thing, which still generally remains cheaper.

Deloitte also believes that perception remains a problem for plant-based meat. In July, it conducted a survey of 2,000 people and found a decline in the belief that plant-based meat is healthier and more ethical than real meat.

There also appears to be a backlash against the product’s “woke” status, as Bloomberg notes:

“Deloitte also suspects that the addressable market may be more limited than previously thought with a growing cultural resistance to its “woke” status — even among those seeking to reduce red meat consumption. Case in point: When Cracker Barrel announced plans to add Impossible Foods’ sausage to its menu over the summer, it faced an onslaught of criticism on social media.”

Some brands are suffering more than others. Impossible claims to have bucked this trend, with a growth of 70% in retail sales in 2022, according to its chief executive officer Peter McGuinness.

McGuinness believes plant-based meats still have a long way to go, though, and could do more to break into the restaurant sector and secure new retailers. Consumer awareness and understanding of these products also need to be increased, he claimed.

Bloomberg’s report doesn’t mention the recent arrest of Beyond’s COO Doug Ramsey, for allegedly biting the nose of a man in a parking lot after a football game, an incident that is hardly likely to improve the image of the company or its morale.

A police report says 53-year-old Ramsay, a resident of Fayetteville, attacked another man who tried to pull out in front of him in a parking garage traffic lane.

The fight eventually escalated, KNWA reports, until Ramsey pulled the other driver ‘in close and started punching his body,’ before biting his nose and ripping some of the flesh off.

Ramsey has been charged with felony battery and making a terroristic threat. He was booked in Washington County jail and is scheduled to appear in Fayetteville District Court on October 19.

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