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Meat-free Sausages and Burgers

Ethical and environmental rankings of 28 brands of meat alternatives including tofu.

We look at what meat-free products are made of, soya's potential link to deforestation, big businesses buying up vegan brands, shine a spotlight on the ethics of Livekindly Collective and give our recommended buys.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

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What to buy

What to look for when buying meat-free products:

  • Is it homemade? Bean burgers are easy to make at home and may have fewer health and carbon issues than ultra-processed products.

  • Is it vegan? Meat-free products may still contain dairy or other animal products, which may have been produced through factory farming. Opt for vegan to reduce your carbon footprint and protect animal rights.

Subscribe to see which companies we recommend as Best Buys and why 

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying meat alternatives:

  • Does the company also make meat and dairy products? If you want to make sure that you are not funding meat or dairy production at all, opt for a vegan company.

  • Does it contain South American soya? Soya production in South America has been linked to deforestation of tropical rainforest. Although much of this is for animal feed, it is best to avoid South American soya in human food too.

Subscribe to see which companies to avoid and why

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20) Ratings Categories Positive Scores

Our Analysis

Once just the stronghold of small, alternative vegan companies, the meat-free market is now dominated by mainstream companies, including those that make most of their money from meat, and private equity companies who might see meat-free companies as a profitable investment in the current climate.

In 2021, sales of meat-free products rose by 16% to £660 million, with the greatest growth in sales of tofu. But there’s still a long way to go – the beef market alone was worth £2.4 billion! And while UK consumption of red meat has gone down over the last decade, poultry consumption has risen.

But overall, people in the UK are eating less meat. In 2022, YouGov found that 2-3% of respondents said they were vegan whereas in 2019, the Vegan Society estimated that just over 1% of the population were vegan.

YouGov found that 88% of people were vegan for animal rights reasons, 79% for environmental reasons and 40% for health reasons.

What’s in this guide to meat-free alternatives?

This guide covers ready-made meat alternatives and includes products designed to taste, smell and look like meat (appetisingly called ‘meat analogues’ in the trade). It also covers products like tofu, falafel and vegetable fingers which can be used as meat replacements, but in general are not marketed as being analogous to meat.

Meat analogues aren’t confined to burgers and sausages but include mince, bacon, chicken breast, and even fish fillets and prawns (see the table further down of who makes what).

We have not included supermarkets on the table for space reasons, but our last guide to supermarkets can be found online or in EC194. In that guide, Co-op and Waitrose were our recommended buys. Co-op’s GRO range and Waitrose’s Plantlife and PlantLiving range are all vegan.

Image: Beyond Meat
Beyond Meat burger

What are meat alternatives made of?

There are still a lot of meat-free products made of soya, but most new products on the market are made from pea protein and wheat – both products that can be grown in the UK and Europe without South American rainforest destruction.

Soya beans

Still a popular ingredient largely because, unlike most other beans, soya protein is a complete protein containing all the eight essential amino acids that we need. Soya sausages were invented in Germany during the first world war to deal with meat shortages.

Soya has long been a staple of Asian and vegetarian/ vegan diets and it is the main ingredient in many of the products rated here. But soya bean cultivation remains linked to deforestation in South America. We look at how sustainable soya-based alternatives are in more detail below.

Tempeh

Clearspot, Tofoo and Biona make tempeh, a traditional Indonesian food, made of fermented soya beans – although other beans can be used – and a fungus called Rhizopus. Unlike tofu, the beans remain whole giving it a chunky, chewy texture. It is less processed than tofu and has more fibre but, like tofu, it is high in protein, equivalent to meat, milk and eggs.

Tofu

Tofu, or bean curd, is made from coagulated soya milk. It is slightly lower in calories and fat than tempeh.

Seitan

Seitan, which means “is gluten” in Japanese, is made from gluten by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch granules have been removed, leaving just the protein. Nutritionally, the drawback with seitan is that the protein isn’t ‘complete’ – it doesn’t contain the full range of essential amino acids.

Lupin beans

Lupin or lupine beans are sometimes called the ‘soya bean of the north’. They contain a similar amount of protein to soya, with the full range of essential amino acids. But, unlike soya, they grow in cool climates.

Jackfruit

Jackfruit is the next big thing in meat substitutes. They are enormous fruit that grow on trees in India and surrounding regions. They contain very little protein, so they aren’t really nutritionally a meat substitute, but when they are unripe they have a chewy texture that is somewhat like pulled pork, and they absorb flavour very well.

Mycoprotein

Mycoprotein means ‘protein from fungi’. It is the basis of Quorn, which is a type of soil mould that is grown in fermentation vats. It was invented deliberately in a drive to find new proteins to feed the world’s growing population in the mid-eighties. Although the patent on it has now expired, Quorn Foods is still the only company that makes it.

Pea protein

Many of the meat analogues such as Beyond Meat, Squeaky Bean and Birds Eye are made from pea protein which is extracted from yellow and green split peas. It can be processed to create products with a chewy, meaty texture. It contains the full range of essential amino acids but is slightly low in one so you shouldn’t make it your only source.

Beans and vegetables

Goodlife Foods and some Birds Eye products are less processed in that they appear to be just beans and vegetables squished together.

Image: Jackfruit
Jackfruit

A word about lab-grown meat

‘No-kill’ meat grown in the laboratory is now on sale in Singapore. Lab-grown meat is not only cruelty free, but bypasses the devastating impact of industrial livestock production on the climate.

The cells to start the process can be taken from biopsies of live animals. The cells are fed nutrients such as amino acids, glucose, vitamins and other growth factors.

The companies developing lab-grown meat say it is useful for weaning committed meat eaters off animal sources if they’re not convinced by the taste and texture of meat-free products.

From an animal rights point of view it seems a no-brainer. Animal rights campaigner Peter Singer who wrote the seminal animal rights book, ‘Animal Liberation’ in 1975, is in favour of it on the basis of ‘minimising suffering’. PETA are also in favour though it caused some ructions within the group.

But there are concerns that it is energy intensive to grow, so may still have a significant climate impact unless sustainable energy is used. Others have said that it opens the door to lab-grown human meat and the moral dilemmas that that might invoke.

Added to this, because it is a capital-intensive industry requiring expensive technical equipment like bioreactors, lab-grown meat is likely to be dominated by big companies, like JBS. This means a further concentration of power in the hands of a few companies.

Would you buy lab-grown meat?

Let us know by sending an email to enquiries@ethicalconsumer.org with ‘Lab grown meat’ as the subject.

Cartoon: woman in supermarketing holding packet of vegan burgers with long list of ingredients. Man says "I think I've found one I recognise!" holding the end of the long list.
(C) Mike Bryson for ECRA

Is my soya burger causing deforestation?

Almost certainly not.

Around three-quarters of global soya is fed to livestock for meat and dairy production and much of the rest is used for biofuels and vegetable oils.

Just 7% of soya is used directly for human food products such as the ones rated here, and the amount has increased minimally over time compared to soya processed for animal feed, which has risen sharply over the last 30 years with the global demand for meat – from 88 million tonnes in 1990 to 227 million tonnes in 2013.

So meat alternatives, such as tofu, tempeh and other products in this guide, have a tiny impact compared to meat.

Brazil and the soya moratorium

Brazil is the second largest producer of soya behind the US and as a result of long-standing concerns about soya cultivation causing deforestation, there has been a ‘soya moratorium’ in place in the country since 2006. The moratorium is an agreement between the companies who buy nearly all of the soya in Brazil not to buy any soya that has been grown on recently deforested Amazon land. It is monitored using satellite data and research has shown it to be effective in reducing Amazon deforestation.

However, the moratorium’s effect is limited in a number of ways. Firstly, it only covers the Brazilian Amazon and not other important biodiverse Brazilian regions such as the Cerrado savanna where the amount of direct forest conversion to soya has been almost twice as high as in the Amazon. Nor does it cover other countries, such as Bolivia, where soya production is expanding at the expense of forests. It has also been criticised by those who argue that soya is simply being put on older deforested land which was previously being used for cattle, while the cattle are pushed onto forest land.

Finally, under President Jair Bolsonaro, Amazon deforestation has started to rise again indicating the limited capacity of the moratorium to halt deforestation in the absence of enlightened political leadership.

For these reasons, we think it’s best to avoid South American soya, which many of the brands in this guide do.

Our feature Is Soya Sustainable? has more information on soya and deforestation. 

What plant-based brands say about where they source their soya from

Brands that got a best rating for soya sourcing were awarded a whole Product Sustainability mark and those that got a middle, got half a Product Sustainability mark.

Table 1: Best rating for soya sourcing policy. Brand does not use soya or states clearly it does not source from South America.

Company

Best for soya sourcing policy

Beyond Meat Main ingredient is pea protein
Biona Burgers (apart from mini burgers, see below) do not use soya and are made from pulses, grains and vegetables
Birds Eye Green Cuisine Main ingredients are wheat and pea protein and vegetables
Cauldron (tofu products) Sources soya from China and Italy
Clearspring Sources soya from Switzerland, Italy, France, China, USA, and Canada
Fridge Raiders Does not use soya in its products which are made from vegetables and chick peas/fava beans
Garden Gourmet States that from 2022 all its soya will be sourced from Europe
Gosh! Main ingredients are pulses and vegetables
Oumph! States it does not use soya from South America
Quorn Main ingredient is mycoprotein
Squeaky Bean Does not use soya in its products which are made from wheat and pea protein
Taifun Sources soya from European farmers and states: “we work with plant breeders to create new tofu soybean varieties that are suitable for cultivation in our climes”
THIS Sources soya from USA
Tofoo and Clearspo Source soya from Canada and Italy
Vivera States its soya is sourced from France, North America and China and is not grown at the expense of rainforests

Table 2: Middle rating for soya sourcing policy. Brand states its soya is sustainable or uses organic-certified soya, but does not specify the source country.

Company

Middle for soya sourcing policy

Biona Mini burgers use organic tofu but company does not name source countries
Bonsan Uses organic soya in most meat alternative products but does not name source countries
Cauldron (sausages) Uses organic soya but does not name source countries
Dragonfly Uses organic soya but does not name source countries
Fry’s States: "Our soy is not sourced from land that causes deforestation" but does not name source countries
No Meat States its products use: "100% plant-based ingredients and sustainable soy" but does not name source countries

Table 3: Worst rating for soya sourcing policy. Brand is likely to use South American soya or uses soya and gives no information about source.

Company

Worst for soya sourcing policy

Goodlife Uses soya in its products but makes no statement about its source
Heck Uses soya in its meat-free sausages but makes no statement about its source
Linda McCartney Uses soya in its products but makes no statement about its source
Richmond Uses soya in its products but makes no statement about its source
Tivall Uses soya in its products but makes no statement about its source
VBites Uses soya in its products but makes no statement about its source
Vegetarian Butcher Uses soya in its products and states: “The soy that we use as a basis for part of our range comes from Europe, South America outside the Amazon, the Midwest of the US, Canada and parts of Asia”
Wicken Fen Uses soya in its products but makes no statement about its source

Tree in the Cerrado area of Brazil
Image of the Cerrado savanna, Brazil (Pixabay)

Will fake meat save us? The environmental impact of soya versus meat production

Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet.

Our article comparing meat, vegetarian and vegan diets has more information about carbon, land use and other issues and how these relate to our food choices.

The development of meat analogues is a response to growing mainstream concerns about the harmful consequences of meat production and a wider interest in reducing meat consumption, particularly for environmental reasons. But how good are they for the environment and what other ethical issues do they raise?

Greenhouse gas emissions of plant-based foods

A July 2022 report from business strategy advisors, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), found that “for each dollar, investment in improving and scaling up the production of meat and dairy alternatives resulted in three times more greenhouse gas reductions compared with investment in green cement technology, seven times more than green buildings and 11 times more than zero-emission cars.”

Investment in alternative proteins jumped from $1bn in 2019 to $5bn in 2021, BCG said. Alternatives currently make up 2% of meat, egg and dairy products sold, but will rise to 11% in 2035 on current growth trends, the report said. This would reduce emissions by an amount almost equivalent to global aviation’s output.

But in a recent ‘Politics of Protein’ report, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES Food) calls fake meat “a silver bullet technology” that may not be as sustainable as advocates claim. It argues that claims about alternative meats focus on greenhouse gas emissions and ignore other aspects of environmental sustainability, in particular biodiversity, with many meat analogues sourcing ingredients from industrial, chemical intensive monoculture systems of soya, palm oil and wheat. (See the table above for which companies use soya and where it’s from and further below for who scores best for palm oil).

IPES Food says that many meat analogue products are factory-produced, ultra-processed foods and therefore require large amounts of energy in their manufacture.

The typical life of animals raised for meat

Many people believe that all animals have a right to life. They are not ‘ours’ to exploit and kill. It’s as simple as that. Here we provide a brief summary of the main arguments from an animal rights and welfare perspective.

  • 70% of farm animals in the UK are raised on factory farms.
  • Chickens are one of the most abused animals and most are factory farmed in cramped windowless sheds, never seeing the outside or being able to display their natural behaviours. They live for about six weeks but can live for six or more years under natural conditions.
  • Beef cows in the UK are often reared outdoors on grass, but are usually killed after one or two years. Across most of Europe, cattle are kept indoors and fattened on a high grain diet. Beef from outside Europe may have come from Brazilian cattle raised on deforested land.
  • Most pigs spend their entire lives indoors. Pregnant and mother sows may be kept in narrow crates where they can’t turn round. At least half of the world’s pig meat is produced from intensive systems, where piglets are typically fattened in barren, slatted concrete-floored sheds. Piglets are killed at 28-35 weeks old but could live for 10-15 years when allowed to live out their natural lives.
  • Lambs may be killed for their flesh when they are just 10 weeks old. They may suffer castrations, tail docking and long transportation for slaughter.

Free range or organic meat and dairy does mean better animal welfare, but does not respect an animal’s right to a life free of exploitation or premature death. Also, better animal welfare does not address some of the most important environmental issues associated with livestock farming.

We have a separate article on the typical life of a dairy cow, and the environmental differences between meat and vegetarian or vegan diets.

Are meat free and vegan alternatives healthy?

The environmental impact of meat analogues is not the only ethical issue. A review of literature on meat alternatives by the Nuffield Foundation considers the health implications of plant-based meats, pointing out that meat analogues may contain similar levels of calories and saturated fat to beef burgers, and may be high in sodium and sugar. Plus they may contain a whole list of other industrially produced ingredients.

Like other foods, a vegan label doesn’t necessarily equate to the product being healthy. But it doesn’t mean that they are less healthy than a meat burger when all nutritional factors are considered, particularly fibre.

The products in this guide vary considerably, from the very simple, such as plain tofu, to the meat analogues which tend to have long lists of ingredients and are more likely to be highly processed. In the context of an otherwise healthy diet, the occasional convenient, highly processed fake meat burger isn’t a problem. But we already know that preparing our own food from scratch using fresh vegetables, beans and pulses and wholegrains and being moderate with salt and sugar is better for us. So, if you’re concerned about your health, it’s better to look for minimally processed meat-free products, like tofu, tempeh, or ones where you can still see the beans and the vegetables rather than the ones that look like meat.

For more information on meeting nutritional needs if you are switching to a wholly vegan diet, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, see the NHS advice page.

Plate of block of tofu, and dish with cubed tofu

Big business takes a bite of the vegan revolution

The meat analogues sector has attracted large amounts of investment from big meat companies. Globally, meat processing giants have acquired, or are developing, plant-based meat substitutes and investing in lab-grown meats.

For example, Brazilian company JBS which bought plant based brand Vivera in 2021 and owns Richmond and Fridge Raiders, is the largest meat processor in the world and has been criticised for buying beef from suppliers involved in deforestation of the Amazon. In May 2022 it became the majority shareholder in cultured meat company BioTech.

According to the Politics of Protein report, deals like these mean that well-meaning consumers of alternative meats may be unaware that they’re buying from the same companies “that are operating the biggest of factory farms, contributing to deforestation and forced labour, and slaughtering millions of animals every day.”

Corporate control threatens to undermine gains from reducing reliance on animals by replicating some of the problems of the traditional meat industry, including mass-produced, monocultured ingredients and energy-consuming methods.

Increases in corporate control of meat alternatives “could reinforce the power relations that keep current systems in place and fail to address the question of how systemic changes will be achieved,” notes the report.

Private equity muscles in too

Investments companies have also been attracted by seeing meat-free sales rising. Four companies in this guide are now owned by private equity investment companies, who, like meat companies, may not be in it for ethical reasons:

  • No Meat, Oumph! and Fry’s – Blue Horizon Ventures is a Swiss ‘mission-driven’ venture capital fund that has been a controlling shareholder of the Livekindly vegan collective since 2020. See Companies behind the brands box at the end for Livekindly Collective.
  • Goodlife – Egeria Capital Management is a Dutch private equity firm that invests in land and buildings (real estate), and companies. It has had a controlling interest in Goodlife since 2014.
  • Squeaky Bean – PAI Partners, the largest private equity firm in France, bought Squeaky Bean in 2021. It has investments in 32 global companies with total sales of €23.8 billion.
  • Gosh! – Efanor Investimentos is a Portuguese investment group which owns food retail, clothing, electronics and telecoms companies. It bought Gosh! in 2021.

See our article on which meat and dairy brands own vegan companies for more information.

Which brands make what meat alternatives?

With so much choice available, how do you know which brand make what vegan and fake meat alternatives? In the table below brands are listed alphabetically and the products are vegan unless otherwise stated.

Brand Products
Beyond Meat Burgers, sausages, meatballs, mince.
Biona Vegetable / bean burgers (broad bean, edamame bean, beetroot, mushroom, sweet potato), jars of tempeh.
Birds Eye Fish fingers, burgers, sausages, nuggets, meatballs, pies. Vegetable fingers and burgers which are not vegan.
Bonsan Sausages, fish-free tuna, fish-free fillet, steak, meat chunks, shredded jackfruit.
Cauldron Tofu (plain and flavoured), falafel, bites, sausages which are not vegan.
Clearspot Tofu (plain and flavoured), seacakes, sausages (various flavours), scrambled tofu, tempeh.
Clearspring Tofu (plain), soya mince & chunks.
Dragonfly Tofu (plain, marinated and smoked).
Fridge Raiders Savoury bite snacks (various flavours).
Fry’s Wide range of burgers, sausages, nuggets and schnitzels, mince, fish fillets, prawns.
Garden Gourmet Burgers, sausages, mince, pieces.
Goodlife Vegetable / nut / bean burgers, sausages. Frozen only.
Gosh! Vegetable / bean burgers, sausages, croquettes.
Heck Sausages, chipolatas, burgers.
Linda McCartney Sausages, sausage rolls, chicken bites, chicken pieces, meatballs, burgers, chicken roast, nuggets, pies. All are vegan except chicken and leek pies, cheese and leek plaits, and mozzarella burgers which contain dairy.
No Meat Burgers, sausages, mince, pasties, sausage rolls, chicken fillets and pieces, spring rolls.
Oumph! Burgers, ribs, kebabs, barbecue chunks.
Quorn Wide range of pieces, mince, steaks, escalopes, burgers, sausages, roast, fillets, meat balls, slices, bites, nuggets, fish fingers, picnic eggs, pies, ready meals. 28 of their 70 products are vegan.
Richmond Sausages, burgers, meatballs, mince, bacon.
Squeaky Bean Flavoured chicken and beef pieces e.g. tikka, spiced doner, pastrami slices.
Taifun Tofu (plain and flavoured), sausages, cutlets.
THIS Sausages and cocktail sausages, bacon, chicken pieces, meatballs, lardons, chicken nuggets.
Tivall Large range including burgers, sausages, meatballs, mince, nuggets. Some vegan, some not, best to check packet. Frozen only.
Tofoo Tofu (plain and flavoured), scrambled tofu, tofu chunks in breadcrumbs and batter, tempeh.
VBites Burgers, bacon rashers, fish steaks, gammon roast, turkey roast, beef roast, ham slices, sausages, pepperoni.
Vegetarian Butcher Burgers, hot dogs, mince, meatballs, chicken breast. Meatballs are not vegan.
Vivera Large range including burgers, sausages, bacon, mince, meatballs, fish fillets, kebabs, steaks.
Wicken Fen Vegetable-based sausages and falafel. All vegan except spinach, leek and cheese flavour. Frozen only.

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Which companies own which meat-free brands?

Despite selling vegan brands, many of the companies in this guide also sell meat products and therefore lost marks under our Animal Rights and Factory Farming categories. Below we highlight which meat-free products are made by meat companies or by vegan/vegetarian companies.

Meat companies making meat-free products

Vivera, Fridge Raiders and Richmond are owned by JBS, the world’s largest meat producer, some of whose suppliers have been accused of animal cruelty and which, in the case of JBS USA, had the highest total number of animal welfare violations at its slaughter houses of any meat company in the USA between 2016 and 2018.

Squeaky Bean is owned by Compleat, which also owns Bowyers, Wall’s and Pork Farms which all sell non-organic pork products.

As well as making vegan sausages, Heck! sells non-organic chicken and pork sausages.

Garden Gourmet and Tivall, (owned by Nestlé) and Gosh! (owned by Sonae), lost marks for selling non-organic meat and dairy and also for not prohibiting animal testing in their supply chains.

Goodlife, Cauldron, Quorn, Birds Eye, Linda McCartney and Vegetarian Butcher are all owned by companies selling non-organic meat and/or dairy.

Vegan, vegetarian and organic companies

The following companies were awarded a positive Company Ethos mark as they are entirely vegan:

Taifun, Tofoo/Clearspot, Clearspring and Windmill Organics (Biona, Bonsan) also were awarded positive marks for being entirely organic.

Make your own

You can get round the fridge / freezer issue and most of the packaging ones by making your own products from scratch using raw, ethically sourced ingredients like dried beans. For example, Suffolk-based Hodmedod’s grow a lot of beans and pulses in the UK, which are likely to have a lower climate impact, better food miles, workers' rights, and food security.

There are plenty of recipes online for making your own meat-free products.

Or you can buy dried packet mixes from the social enterprise Veggies.org,uk, or Sosmix, a brand which has been around almost as long as there have been vegetarians.

Is it better to buy chilled or frozen products? 

Pretty much all the meat-free products in this guide need to be kept in a fridge or a freezer requiring energy to keep them cold from the factory to the shop to the home. (An exception to this is Clearspring tofu which comes in a Tetra Pak.)

  • Chiller products mainly come in plastic trays and bags, even though they might have paper sleeves. Plastic trays are not collected for recycling by all local councils in the UK.
  • Frozen products may come in a plastic bag but lots of them are plastic free and just come loose in a cardboard box.

So from a packaging point of view, frozen products may be a better option. And if you have a freezer, keeping it fully packed is a good way to increase its energy efficiency.

The following brands do frozen products just packaged in cardboard:

  • Birds Eye
  • Fry’s
  • Goodlife
  • Linda McCartney
  • Oumph!
  • Quorn
  • Tofoo
  • THIS
  • Wicken Fen

Is plant-based the same as vegan?

‘Plant-based’ is the new buzzword on many meat-free food labels, but why are so many brands opting for it instead of ‘vegan’?

Most people assume that the term ‘plant-based’ means that the product is vegan, and often it is, but according to regulations, up to 5% of plant-based ingredients are allowed to be egg or milk. The product is literally plant based, in that the majority of the ingredients are from plants. So if you are vegan, check the ingredients list of products that are labelled ‘plant-based’.

Is it that brands think that ‘vegan’ has negative connotations of extremism and holier-than-thou ism? Veganism definitely denotes a more holistic or hard-line philosophy of avoiding all animal products, including clothing and non-cruelty-free cosmetics, for example. Plant-based is generally just applied to food.

If the term plant-based does attract more people to a meat-free diet, that is certainly a good thing. But because the definition of plant-based is ambiguous, it doesn’t help consumers wanting to stay completely free of all animal products. The Vegan Society found that the public preferred the term vegan, especially those people who were vegan – quelle surprise!

How do the brands rate for ethical issues?

Below we highlight how the brands score for issues such as palm oil, carbon reporting, workers' rights and tax avoidance.

Who does best for palm oil?

The following brands are owned by companies which don’t use any palm oil:

  • Beyond Meat
  • Clearspring
  • Dragonfly
  • Clearspot
  • Goodlife
  • Heck
  • Taifun
  • Tofoo
  • Vivera
  • Wicken Fen

These brands use palm oil but get our best rating: Biona, Bonsan, Fry’s, No Meat, Oumph!, VBites.

All the other companies either got a middle or a worst rating.

Carbon Management and Reporting

While the carbon impact of meat alternatives is generally lower than meat, we expect all companies to be taking reasonable steps to reduce the climate impact of their activities. On the whole, the companies in this guide didn’t do well in this respect.

Only three companies, Nestlé (Garden Gourmet, Tivall), Nomad Foods (Birds Eye) and Unilever (Vegetarian Butcher) received our best rating for their carbon management and reporting.

The following companies received our worst rating: Beyond Meat, Clearspring, Compleat/PAI Partners (Squeaky Bean), Goodlife, Dragonfly, Heck!, JBS (Richmond, Vivera, Fridge Raiders), Monde Nissin (Cauldron, Quorn), Tofoo/ Clearspot, Wicken Fen, Windmill Organics (Biona, Bonsan).

Some meat analogue companies calculated that they had made carbon savings by comparing their products to meat products, for example Beyond Meat compared the environmental impact of its burger to a beef burger and Livekindly claimed that it had avoided generating the weight of 28,249 elephants in CO2, apparently by comparing itself to a meat company. However, most gave no information about steps they had taken, other than producing plant-based food, to reduce their carbon emissions.

Management of workers’ rights in supply chain

Only Unilever (Vegetarian Butcher) received our best rating in our Supply Chain Management category.

Dragonfly, Taifun, Tofoo/Clearspot, Clearspring, Richmond, and Fridge Raiders received middle ratings.

All other brands in this guide received our worst rating. The following companies provided no information at all: Beyond Meat, Livekindly (Fry’s, No Meat, Oumph!), Wicken Fen, VBites, and Plant Meat (THIS).

Workers’ rights violations

JBS lost a mark in our Workers’ Rights category for lacking basic safety measures resulting in a COVID outbreak in a US factory in which six workers died. Nestlé was criticised for labour rights violations in various supply chains including on Brazilian coffee farms.

Tax avoidance and plant-based food brands

Eight companies got our worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance:
1. Nestlé (Garden Gourmet, Tivall)
2. JBS (Richmond, Vivera, Fridge Raiders)
3. Hain Celestial (Linda McCartney)
4. Nomad Foods (Birds Eye)
5. Sonae (Gosh!)
6. Beyond Meat
7. PAI Partners (Squeaky Bean)
8. Unilever (The Vegetarian Butcher)

All apart from Beyond Meat have annual turnovers in the billions.

Is it good or bad that vegan brands are being bought up by big business?

As people following plant-based diets can halve their carbon footprint in contrast to meat eaters, we don’t want to advise people to boycott any companies that are making it possible to make the switch if they can’t access other more ethical alternatives.

However, if you want your spending to have most impact, it makes more sense to give your money to companies that you know are not going to reinvest it in activities that cause harm to animals or the planet, if you are able to easily access the more ethical options.

Company Behind the Brand

Livekindly Collective was founded in 2020 by former directors of Unilever, Nestlé and Whole Foods with money from investment firm Blue Horizon, which invests in the food sector “because it is a critical lever for reducing greenhouse gas emissions”. It rapidly acquired several meat analogue brands including Oumph!, Fry Family Foods and No Meat (originally Iceland's own-brand). Since its foundation Livekindly has raised a further $500 million in investment from banks and venture capital firms.

This company is an interesting example of a vegan company owned by an investment firm. It looks more like an investment vehicle for those wanting to cash in on the new vegan market than a company fit for the challenge of fixing a broken food system.

 

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