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Daphne, left at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

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Do huge companies own your favorite vegan brands? The answer may be yes, and the huge company may be a meat processing company.

Beyond Meat was the darling of the vegan world for a while. The product apparently tastes just like meat (I've never tasted it because I'm not thrilled with their ingredients). And the company experienced a lot of mainstream media attention. Bill Gates invested in the company, because he understands it's a lot more efficient to feed the world's hungry with plant proteins than with meat. Then Tysons Foods bought a 5 percent stake in Beyond Meat. Tysons Foods is the world's second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork. A lot of vegans were upset about this. Here's an article that looks at both sides of this investment.

Here's some more buyouts or investments. Pinnacle Foods bought Gardein. Pinnacle owns Campbell Soup, Wish-Bone, Hungry Man, and Celeste (pizza). A company called Maple Leaf Foods bought Lightlife. Maple Leaf Foods is a Canadian company which mainly sells meat products. Daiya has been acquired by Japanese pharmaceutical company Otsuka. Out of concern that drug companies test on animals, some people stopped buying Daiya.

One thing to think about is whether a huge company improves a vegan product or not. I used to love Boca Burgers back in the 1990's. But when you look at their product now, here's the ingredients you'll find (from the manufacturer's website):

"INGREDIENTS: WATER, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, WHEAT GLUTEN, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF METHYLCELLULOSE, SALT, CARAMEL COLOR, DRIED ONIONS, YEAST EXTRACT, SESAME OIL, HYDROLYZED WHEAT PROTEIN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR (NON-MEAT), DISODIUM GUANYLATE, DISODIUM INOSINATE."

I avoid soy, wheat gluten, yeast extract (a hidden flavor enhancer with MSG like charachteristics), and hydrolyzed wheat protein (probable form of hidden MSG). So in 20 years, Boca Burgers have not evolved into a healthy product, but one I will not eat. Boca Burgers was bought by Kraft in 2000. Food Babe has some good insight into the safety of the ingredients used in these burgers.

Of particular concern is soy processed with hexane. The Cornucopia Institute says: "Hexane is a byproduct of gasoline refining. It is a neurotoxin and a hazardous air pollutant. Soybean processors use it as a solvent—a cheap and efficient way of extracting oil from soybeans, a necessary step to making most conventional soy oil and protein ingredients. Whole soybeans are literally bathed in hexane to separate the soybeans’ oil from protein." Hexane processed soy is not allowed in organic foods, so buying organic is one way of avoiding the risk. Here's a graphic that says a lot about the food manufacting industry:


source: Cornucopia Institute
I've enjoyed meat alternatives from Amy's, Sunshine Burgers, and Tofurkey (tempeh strips). I avoid products from companies on the right side of the graphic.

Morningstar Farms (veggie burgers) was bought by Kellogg. Kelogg also bought Natural Touch (burgers). dean Foods, a dairy producer, invested in Good Karma, which makes vegan yogurt. The list of acquisitions and investments will probably continue.

So, you may want to do a little research. Amy's is still family owned. A company that I like is Hilary's. They are a B Corp. B Corps, from their site, "are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency." Hilary's is also very progressive in offering burgers that are organic, vegan, gluten free and soy free.

The more you read about the food industry, you may want to cook more of your meals from scratch, or buy products from a few smaller, trusted brands.