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Whole Foods CEO Says Plant-Based Fake Meat Is Bad For Your Health (But Good For Environment)

By  Ashe Schow
John Mackey, chief executive officer of Whole Foods Market Inc., listens during a panel discussion at the World Health Care Congress in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 6, 2011.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The media may have fallen in love with plant-based fake meat like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods (who produce the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger, respectively), but one high-profile super vegan doesn’t think the “meat” is good for anyone’s health.

John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods, recently told CNBC that while the plant-based meat is better for the environment, and is more ethical than eating animals, it is made from processed ingredients that aren’t healthier than actual meat.

“The [brands] who are capturing the imagination of people — and I’m not going to name these brands because I’m afraid I will be associated with the critique of it,” Mackey, who has been a vegan for more than 20 years, told the outlet, “but some of these that are extremely popular now that are taking the world by storm, if you look at the ingredients, they are super, highly processed foods.”

“I don’t think eating highly processed foods is healthy. I think people thrive on eating whole foods,” he added. “As for health, I will not endorse that, and that is about as big of criticism that I will do in public.”

CNBC listed the ingredients for Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods burgers:

According to Beyond Meat’s website, ingredients for its plant-based patties include water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, rice protein and other natural flavors, including apple extract and beet juice extract (for color). Ingredients for Impossible Foods burger include water, soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil, potato protein, soy leghemoglobin (a group of protein found in animals and plants) and other natural flavors, according to its website.

CNBC also spoke to registered dietitian Alissa Rumsey, who told the outlet that the plant-based burgers “are not necessarily healthier than beef burgers.”

“They’re totally fine to eat, but there’s no need to replace your beef burger if you don’t enjoy these,” she added.

Mackey said that even if plant-based meat isn’t necessarily healthier than actual meat, it could serve as a “transition food” to move people away from meat.

“A lot of people say … that [plant-based] meat is a transition food, meaning it’s a way for [people] to begin to reeducate [their] palates,” he told CNBC.

He added that Americans need to readjust their palates in order to get away from eating meat, which takes time.

“So the reason why these plant-based meats have taken the world by storm is that they taste very similar to regular meats, whereas if you get a [healthy] black bean burger with flax seeds and sweet potatoes in it, that’s going to taste great to me,” but not to most other people, he said.

He said people can retrain their taste buds by continuously eating things they don’t typically like, and said he now loves fruits and vegetables because he trained himself to love them.

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