In the past decade, Beyond Meat’s plant-based protein offerings have become ubiquitous in the marketplace.   It’s gone far with its claim that its meat substitute   is “the future of food.”

Now, however, Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat has to persuade finicky American consumers that the future includes a detour through the People’s Republic of China, a country with one of the most atrocious food safety records in the world.  Food safety scandals in China include a seemingly endless list of foods and poisons. Some examples include poisonous Jinhua ham, counterfeit baby formula, adulterated pickled vegetables, counterfeit alcoholic drinks, poisonous mushrooms, sewage in tofu manufacturing, fake eggs, expired meats, gutter oil, pesticide residues, and sodium formaldehyde Sulfoxylate, just to name a few.

All that history aside, Beyond Meat has signed an agreement with  Jiaxing Economic & Technological Development Zone “to design and develop manufacturing facilities in the JXEDZ, including a state-of-the-art production facility to manufacture plant-based meat products including beef, pork, and chicken under the Beyond Meat brand in China.”

Jiaxing is a northern, water-connected  Chinese city that some remember for when at least thousands of hog carcasses were found floating in the local Huangpu River.  The JXEDZ, according to Beyond Meat, is a new “historic and commercially important development zone with ready access to Shanghai.”

 “Beyond Meat is building the perfect road to long term success in China,” said Micky Pant, senior advisor to Beyond Meat,  “It has the confidence to set up dedicated, cutting edge production capacity via a wholly-owned subsidiary, located on the mainland close to Shanghai. The JXEDZ is a visionary and proactive partner with an excellent record in supporting the food industry.”

Supply chains not previously considered risky because of their Chinese links are now under serious review because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Going the other way, however,  Beyond Meat, Inc. will be the first multinational company focused solely on plant-based meat production to bring its own major production facility into China.

Food production in China has come at a price because of the country’s poor food safety record, which often puts children at risk.  Many American consumers ceased buying food produced in China more than a decade ago when milk powder was dosed with melamine, sending thousands of children to hospitals and killing several.

Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown is apparently not among them.

China is one of the world’s largest markets for animal-based meat products, and potentially for plant-based meat,” Brown said.  “We are delighted and confident that after several months of productive and collaborative discussions, we will partner with the JXEDZ to develop two production facilities, including one of the world’s largest and technologically advanced plant-based meat factories. We are very impressed by the capabilities and vision of the JXEDZ and they are the ideal partner for us in this vitally important country and market.” 

Candy Chan, General Manager for Beyond Meat in China added, “With its expertise in the food industry, proximity to Shanghai, and excellent logistics and people capabilities, the JXEDZ will be the perfect partner and location for our ambitious plans for the China market.”

The general director of the Jiaxing Economic & Technological Development Zone is happy with the deal.

“We are very happy to welcome Beyond Meat to our Economic Development Zone and to China. It is our vision to support high-quality investors in starting their ventures in China, and we are aligned with the vision of Beyond Meat to bring new, high technology food products that are nutritious and environmentally friendly to the Chinese market,” he said. ” We look forward to a long relationship and mutually beneficial partnership with this dynamic new-age company.”

Trial production is expected to commence within months with full-scale production in early 2021. China is expected to be one of the most important markets in the world for Beyond Meat, as a production and R&D center, and as a major market in the years to come.

It remains to be seen how American consumers will respond.   When USDA permitted China to process chickens raised and slaughtered in the U.S., Canada, and Chile, thousands of American consumers protested because of China’s dismal reputation for food safety.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)