Date Full Report Received

Date Abstract Report Received


Primary Investigator:
Co-Investigators: Tyler Thompson, Terry Engle, Greg Thoma, Daesoo Kim, Keith Belk

The objectives of this study were to determine the nutritional composition and environmental impact of Morning Star Spicy Black Bean Burgers (VB), Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger (BB), Impossible Food’s Impossible Burger (IB), boneless pork chops (PC), and 80% lean 20% fat ground pork (GP).

To determine the nutritional composition, the five products listed above were collected from six cities (Seattle, WA; Peyton, CO; Memphis, TN; Newburgh, IN; Houston, TX and Brooklyn, NY) to obtain a representative sampling of the products across the United States. Nutrient content of the samples were determined following standardized methods developed by the Association of Official Analytical Chemist (AOAC) to ensure accuracy. The products were evaluated for proximate composition (dry matter, crude fat, ash, protein, and moisture), fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and allergens. To determine the environmental impact of the products, a scan-level life cycle assessment (LCA) of greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, water use, and land use associated with the production of all the products were conducted. For this, SimaPro v 8.5 software was utilized to predict the environmental impact of the products tested. This software evaluated the environmental impact of products based on ingredients/production, processing, packaging, product transportation, retail setting (selling and display of products in stores), cooking of products, and consumption aspects. With these seven factors, the software was able to estimate the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted, along with water, electricity, and land utilized for 1kg of the product produced.

The nutritional analysis indicated that PC could be the most nutritionally dense product. The PC contained the highest amount of protein and essential amino acids among the products tested. When evaluating plant-based proteins, the IB was found to be the most nutritionally dense with similar protein content to PC and GP. Cholesterol was found in highest concentrations among the pork products, while it was not detected in the plant-based proteins. For mineral concentration, the plant-based products were found to contain the greatest amount of iron and sodium. Sodium levels were about 10 times higher in plant-based proteins while iron content was about 3 to 4 times compared to the pork products. Vitamin E content was highest in plant-based products, whereas the pork products had higher amounts of B-vitamins. However, to understand the ability of the body to utilize these nutrients, digestibility studies might be needed. While the tests were unable to detect many of the organic acids, either due to their absence or matrix interference, small amounts of acetic and citric acid were detected in VB and BB. Similarly, allergens were found at the highest levels for VB and BB products and was in agreement with the allergens listed on their labels.

The LCA indicated difference between the products on the environmental impact. Pork consumption was found to have the highest relative impact on global warming potential and land occupation. Among the seven factors, feed production was the greatest contributor to the environmental impact of pork. For plant-based products, production of ingredients was the largest contributor to their environmental impact. Unlike other plant-based products, the IB consumption had a high energy demand, especially electricity consumption, during manufacturing stage for the processes of imitating meat-like taste. Nutritional profile analysis using the NRF15.3 or NRF9.3 system (inclusion of 15 or 9 nutrients to be encouraged and 3 nutrients to be discouraged in diets system) yielded conflicting results. The NRF15.3 scores indicated that pork products had higher nutritional value, whereas NRF9.3 scores indicated that pork had lower scores compared to BB and VB, most probably due to the differences in the nutrient composition between the products.