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NBSV 103


Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 103

Before The Butcher Founder Danny O’Malley on creating plant-based meat, veganism, + more

Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No-Bullshit Vegan podcast episode 103. Danny O’Malley, president and founder of Before the Butcher joins me to share the story of his business and to discuss all things plant-based meats.

Welcome to the show. I'm Karina, your go-to no BS vegan fitness and nutrition coach. Thanks so much for tuning in today for my interview with Danny O’Malley, president and founder of Before the Butcher and a world-leading plant-based meat expert. Danny helped innovate the first line of diverse plant-based meat, burgers, chicken, turkey, sausage, and much more with an eye on taste, nutrition, and sustainability. Here's our discussion. 

Hey Danny, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for speaking with me.

Danny O’Malley: Hey Karina. Thank you so much for having me on. I'm really excited to spend a few minutes or then some with you talking about the plant-based and vegan and so on and so forth.

Karina Inkster: Oh yeah. There's going to be a lot. Why don't we just jump right in? I would love to hear the story of Danny first of all, and then Before the Butcher. So what’s your story with coming to the plant-based diet? Why veganism?

Danny O’Malley: It's a little bit of a long winding road, but I think everybody has a long winding road when they're talking about making the move this direction, unless they were born into it, which there's not a lot of us like that out there. There's more of us that made that transition on our own. You know, the interesting thing is I always believed that I ate healthy for many, many years. I grew up in the Midwest. So I grew up in a family. I've got six brothers and sisters, you know, my mom had 10 kids in 10 years between 19 and 29 years of age. So pretty tight family. But as you can imagine, meat and potatoes. That's what went on the table. And as we got into the summer, there was, you know, corn and all the good vegetables.

But we grew up on meat and potatoes. That's what I knew. When I was still in high school, moved out to southern California, Santa Barbara, with my parents. Not a bad move from Milwaukee to Santa Barbara. And so an unbelievable eye-opener for me, because I went from a place that during the winter, we really didn't have fresh vegetables. I mean, not compared to what you have out in southern California and it's much better today than it was back then, but I never knew what an artichoke was. I had no idea. That was foreign to me. I don't think I ever had an avocado before and now I was living amongst avocado orchards. So you know, and then of course all the citrus in California, not that I didn't have an orange before, I did, but it's really different when you pick it off a tree.

I mean, we couldn't do that back there. We can pick an apple off a tree and maybe a pear and then pick fresh blackberries, raspberries during the summer. So the first big step for me was really, as a teenager, I realized that life wasn't about just meat and potatoes, right? And so I started eating more vegetables, really enjoying it because you know, what a great place to be in Southern California, that everything is fresh. If we don't make it here, it's coming from somewhere, or grow it I should say, it's coming from somewhere else, fairly close, Arizona, Mexico, so on and so forth. So everything's really fresh. And then, you know, as time evolved and I started getting a little older and had kids of my own - by the way, during this time, I've always been fairly active and taking care of myself and trying to eat healthy, or at least what I thought was healthy.

And those are two completely separate things. We could talk about that too. What is healthy and what you think is healthier are many times, two separate things. I had children. My oldest child struggled with weight and that's not uncommon with children in the US, right? Around the world, actually. Obesity is a big, big issue with kids and has been for many, many years. And so back in the early two-thousands around 2001 I believe it was, I started a company, and by the way, I wasn't successful. So BTB is not my first company and I wasn't successful. And a lot of people go through this. I really wanted to help my oldest son and I wanted to do it, not just for him, but I realized there were a lot of other children out there.

So I started a company, it was called Nutrivity - nutrition and activity, one word together. So the whole focus on it was to help kids understand how to eat better, educate their parents obviously, and then the activity that went with it. So I designed this program that there was a booklet, almost like a comic book, but, you know, draw and colour and doing all kinds of things. This is for younger children, maybe ages five to 10 years old. And then I was working in conjunction with a school principal that I knew and she was helping out. And then we also did a video called Kai Fu, which was like Kung Fu you know, kind of thing with kids just doing exercise, Kung Fu style, right?

Karina Inkster: Nice!

Danny O’Malley: Cuz it’s fun. So we actually shot two videos, and I never completed the book. One of the heartbreaking things in my life I never got there. And there were a lot of reasons behind that. I had struggles with the business and some other things going on, and I ended up having to close the business. I did release the video. It never really went anywhere because I didn't have the marketing funds to go out and do a lot with it. Anyways, that was kind of my start in the whole realm of being healthy, right? And the nutrition, the activity, and you know, all that kind of thing together. So I knew this is something I needed to do, but I didn't know how to get there and what to do and what my part in this world was going to be. So I continued to work in the food business. I worked for a couple of major restaurant chains, running operations for them.

And then I got into distribution on the foodservice side and worked for the largest foodservice distributor in the world here in Southern California. None of it added up for me. I struggled. And then one day I was sitting in my office and I was a director for this large foodservice distributor. And I was sitting in my office and I had a meeting scheduled with a gentleman. That was from, at that point in time, basically, what was considered a startup in the plant-based meat industry, you may have heard of their name: Beyond Meat.

Karina Inkster: Yes! I had a feeling it was going to be that because I knew you had a history with them.

Danny O’Malley: Yeah, so the gentleman walked in and at that time, this is how small they were - they had two salesmen. They had one for retail and one for food service.

Karina Inkster: Oh wow! No way!

Danny O’Malley: The entire team I don't think it was more than 25 people. Everybody - R and D executives, everybody, marketing, everything was maybe 25 people. And he walked in and sat down at my desk and said, Danny, I am really struggling with this. We have this product that's really unique and innovative and you know this is Southern California. I don't understand why you guys aren't selling this product. 

The operating company that I worked for had over a hundred, actually almost 200 people on the street as sales, just in the greater Los Angeles area. I mean, it was a massive team at that time. And he says, I don't get it. The sales are very lean and it doesn't seem like you guys are pushing this. And I said, well, tell me a little bit about what you have here and what you're doing. And I knew a little bit about Beyond Meat, but back then, you know, I'm talking, what seven, seven-plus years ago, most people didn't know much about them, honestly. And so, he sat down and started telling me about it. And interestingly enough, he was not plant-based or vegan. This is a big, husky, meat-eating, meat-loving guy.

Karina Inkster:Interesting, interesting. Okay.

Danny O’Malley: Really interesting, right! And I'm thinking to myself, dude really? Cause I was more that way than he was at that time you know? I wasn't vegan at the time, and I was still eating meat, but my diet was probably closer to what we call a flexitarian diet today than anything. So we talked and we finished the conversation. I said, look I'm going to do everything I can to help you out here, because I believe in what you're doing as a mission for the company, in addition to the fact that I thought the products were pretty decent. I only say pretty decent because those are very different than the products they have today.

Karina Inkster: I see. Right. That makes sense. A couple iterations in those seven years I’m sure.

Danny O’Malley: For the time they were actually pretty good. If you were to try to sell those products today - and Beyond has discontinued their chicken. They did that a couple of years ago because it just wasn’t selling. And as we know, they just released a chicken tender the other day.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, I saw that!

Danny O’Malley: So it took them a couple of years to get there. So you know, how difficult it is sometimes to come up and actually produce these types of products. So we finished up the conversation. I said, hey, look, I'm going to do what I can to help you. And he said, Danny, one other thing before I leave. I’m the only guy covering sales for Beyond Meat. I live on the east coast and I'm trying to cover the entire country. I can't do it. We need another person. And we were looking for somebody on the west coast, you know, so we can kind of share the country, and meet at the Mississippi or whatever.

And he says, if you know anybody like that, or, you know anybody that might be interested, let me know. So I said okay.

Karina Inkster: This is getting the wheels turning.

Danny O’Malley: Yeah, let me think about it and get back to you. So I didn't think about it for very long and I called them up maybe an hour or so later. And I said look - Tim is his name - still a good friend of mine. I said, Tim, I know the person that would be perfect for this job and for the team. And you know, he got kinda excited - Danny, who is it? I said, well, you're talking to that person right now.

And it was literally a matter of weeks and I was in. I didn't have to interview with Tim. Tim already knew who I was at that time. And I interviewed with the two founders. There was a second founder, so I don't know if everybody knows that, but there are two co-founders for Beyond Meat. Ethan Brown who's the CEO is now the remaining founder and the one that runs the company. So I interviewed with Ethan and the other gentleman, and within a matter of a week or two, I was on the team and you know, getting ready to go there. So that was my intro into what is obviously in my mind, the start of plant-based meats really started with Beyond and the marker for me. I don't know if it's everybody else's marker, but my marker is when they released the Beyond Burger because that was the product that changed everything.

Now, obviously two months later, Impossible released the Impossible burger and everything started kind of rolling forward from there. And I was only with them a short period of time after they released the Beyond Burger. But what's really interesting Karina is at the beginning, all we did was spend time educating people. Nobody got really what we were doing, except for maybe, you know, vegans and vegetarians. And a lot of them were pissed off at us because they thought we were double-crossing more or less, like, why are you trying to sell this to meat-eaters? You know, I mean, why are you doing this kind of thing? So we did have some pushback from vegans who just didn't get it. I don't think that's the case at all today. I've very seldom run into a vegan who has an issue with what we're doing because they understand what the end game is.

Karina Inkster: Exactly!

Danny O'Malley: And the end game really is to get people to eat better and to eat less animal protein. We're not going to get everybody to change, but if we can get people to make small changes in their life, in the way they eat, it's going to be better for all of us. We have to be realistic. So it was an exciting time with Beyond Meat cause they were, you know, innovating and coming up with some things that nobody had ever seen before. But I also realized very quickly that first of all, one company wasn't going to do this. We needed numerous companies to do this. We knew back then that the population back then was maybe 7 billion people. I think we're pushing 8 billion now and by 2050 we expect 10 billion people on this planet. We cannot feed everybody on this planet with animal-based proteins.

It's impossible. There needs to be another protein or multiple protein sources that are environmentally friendly to feed everybody on this earth. And nothing makes more sense in my mind than plant-based proteins, right? So I saw what was coming, or at least I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. 

What I believed was what we're seeing today and what we're going to see for many, many years to come was people realizing that this was important. That this was something that needs to happen for our children and for our children's children. Look honestly, you and I Karina, we could live the rest of our lives and be fine, but what happens with our kids and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren and so on and so forth, generations to come? We have to do things today. Otherwise, we're in big trouble. We're already in trouble, but we can find a way to make this work out and we will.

So, maybe a little over a year, year and a half in I said I've got to do something myself. And I knew I needed to get back in. I tried once. It didn't work for me. Now I needed to find the right thing. My original concept for Before the Butcher was not what it became. It was really different, but similar. It was still a hundred percent plant-based. And I partnered up with another gentleman that I had learned through another friend who I was just passing. You know, I was talking to him, I sat down for lunch with a good friend at a market out here called Mother's Market, which is all-natural foods. They have a little restaurant within the market and we sat down and he was I think, in between jobs at the time and I was working for Beyond and just saying, hey dude, I'm I know I haven't been here long, but I picked up a lot and I know I've got to do something for myself.

And I started telling him a little bit about what I wanted to do. And he says Danny, you need to talk to my other buddy. I think you met him once. And I had. He says, he closed up his company, a short while back, but he's working on or talking about something else and it seems like you guys are on the same page. So I called him up and we met and we realized we were talking about the same thing. And so after many iterations of what we were going to do and how we're going to do it, we kind of figured it out. We started putting our team together. I gave notice to Beyond Meat and said, hey look, guys, I'm moving on. And in September of 2017, we started Before the Butcher. Honestly, I'm not sure if we knew what the name was back then. That's all part of the evolution, right?

Karina Inkster: Of course.

Danny O’Malley: And you always think things are going to be much easier than they are, but it has been a really interesting road. It's almost four years for me now Karina. Every single day is different for me and when I say every single day, I mean, seven days a week, right. And so it's really exciting that the whole premise behind Before the Butcher is really that we, and we talked about this from the very beginning, we wanted to offer plant-based meat options that are attractive to both, you know, to all vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters and also that are a little bit more affordable than what our competitors were at the time. And a greater variety. That has always been important. So we originally released eight different products into foodservice originally.

We had pulled pork, chicken chunks, beef tips, chorizo, sausage crumbles, and beef crumbles. We didn't have a burger at the beginning, but we did shortly after. We were actually the third one to come out with a plant-based burger behind Beyond and Impossible. But we were about a year behind them, I think when we did it. And then late, I guess November of 2019, we went into the retail market with our lineup of burgers. So our brand is called Uncut, and we have a family of burgers. We have our patties, I should say that the regular, uncut burger, which is a traditional like beef burger. We have a Turkey burger, a chicken burger, and a breakfast sausage patty, which is an award-winning breakfast sausage patty. We got the FABI award - food and beverage innovation award from the restaurant.

Karina Inkster: Congrats. That's super awesome.

Danny O’Malley: Really cool. we won another one this year for taco ground from the FABI association as well. So really cool. We have a couple of award-winning products and we're just really proud of what we do. I'm very proud of my team and how hard they worked to get us to where we are today and what we're doing today. The picture is always bigger than just the product, right? The end-all, and I believe it's the end-all for all of the plant-based companies out there doing similar things like we are, we have missions and visions and they're all somewhat similar.

You know, the mission is really to provide healthy alternatives to the general public, hopefully, that are affordable. We can talk about that too. And just you know, help to create a better world going forward, because we have a lot of challenges right now, especially with our food system. It’s really broken. And you know, not one single company is going to fix it. But I'll tell you, what's really cool is when you see a buy-in from some of these mega-corporations that are international corporations like Tyson and you know, some of the other big ones out there who are now either are producing plant-based or who have bought plant-based companies. Look, I get it. Economically They're thinking, hey we can make money doing it, but it still helps us, Right? It still helps. And that's what we have to look at.

Karina Inkster: Absolutely. So Danny, where in this whole trajectory, did you make the personal decision to be plant-based yourself?

Danny O’Malley: That’s a good question. I was, at the time I was still at Beyond Meat and I was at the gym. My buddy owns a gym here locally that I go to every day. I shouldn't say every day, five days a week.

Karina Inkster: That’s pretty damn good!

Danny O’Malley: Except when I'm traveling. And then I try to do it at the hotel gym, but it's never the same.

Karina Inkster: It’s never the same. Nope.

Danny O’Malley: So I'm at the gym with one of my best friends and he's a little bit heavyset, and we're talking and we say, hey look, we're going to create a little program for ourselves for three months. And we're going to come in and we're going to work out five days a week and we're going to eat healthier. Then he said to me, he says - by the way, at that time, I was really a pescatarian. I had stopped eating meat. I wasn't eating chicken or pork. I was just eating seafood. Boy, I loved seafood.

Karina Inkster: Were you still doing dairy at that point or?

Danny O’Malley: I don't remember. Honestly, I probably was because I grew up in the dairyland in Wisconsin and I came out here to California, which is another dairyland, right? The two biggest dairy states in the country. And boy, I loved cheese. And you know, recently the industry, the plant-based side of the dairy industry I should call it, they have come leaps and strides ahead with some of these products that are just amazing. I love it. I absolutely love it. Back then, not as good, right?

Karina Inkster: Mmhmm! I remember those days.

Danny O’Malley: Yeah! Five or six years ago or whatever it was. And so he goes hey Danny, why don't you go a hundred percent plant-based or vegan? And I'm looking at my buddy and saying hey, I don't know if you know, but I'm kind of doing this for you more than for myself. So you would learn by spending a little time with me Karina that if you challenge me to something that's somewhat realistic, I'm going to do it.

Karina Inkster: Mmhmm I believe it.

Danny O’Malley: And so I said yeah no problem. A history background on my own personal health, I've always been a pretty healthy guy, and I've always been fairly into athletics and into sports and things like that all my life since I was young. But in my adult life, I've struggled with cholesterol and of course, that's not unusual. My dad has been on statins for 40 years and my dad's in his mid-eighties now and he's still around knock on wood. God bless him. But he’s been on statins for probably 40 years and my brothers, I think all my brothers or most of my brothers - I have four brothers who are on statins - and every time I go into my doctor, get my cholesterol checked doc goes, hey Danny, borderline high. You should think about getting on some drugs for this. I’m like no look I’m healthy. I don't want to do it, right? In fact, it got to the point where I was like, I don't even want to get a checkup anymore, cause I'm going to hear it.

Karina Inkster: You’re just going to tell me to go on meds again damn it!

Danny O’Malley: Yeah exactly. I go in and get checked because I thought hey well, what I'm going to do is I'm going to get all my blood work done.

Karina Inkster: I see where this is going!

Danny O’Malley: And then three months later, I'm going to go back in and get it checked again, right? Because honestly, I'm no different than most people out there. When your father - by the way, my grandfather and my great-grandfather both died in their low to mid-sixties by heart attack. So back then they didn't know much about this cholesterol thing. And we kind of attributed to that they're in the Midwest or eat meat and you know, all that kind of stuff. And we're thinking hey, you know, heart attacks. That's why my dad got on statin. And you know, by the time my dad's there, they know how to treat this kind of thing. So I go and get my cholesterol checked, hear from my doctor a day or two later, Danny, your cholesterol's high you should think about getting on meds.

Karina Inkster: No surprise.

Danny O’Malley: Hang on doc, let me come back in 90 days, and let's check it. So 90 days later and on a completely vegan diet, which by the way - and there's my dog in the background barking - which by the way, and we can talk about this too Karina, is I would never suggest anybody go cold turkey into a vegan diet unless they completely understand what it's all about. And I prepped my own food for 90 days. I literally did my own meal prep to make sure I was getting what I needed. And when you're working out, you need more protein than somebody that's not working out. So I had to figure that out and my body had to adjust and figure that out, even though I was fairly close to it, I wasn't there. And so I prepped and 90 days later, I go back into the doctor and my cholesterol dropped 70 points. And that's massive.

Karina Inkster: Holy crap! That’s impressive.

Danny O’Malley: So I learned a couple of things. One is I was on the right diet for me. After 90 days it was much easier. And there was no question in my mind I was going to be and was going to continue to be vegan and plant-based, and I was comfortable with it and I felt really good about it. And you know, what's really cool Karina is I was sleeping better. I was stronger. I was faster and I felt so much better. I feel even to this day, and this is I think almost six years later, I can eat as much as I want. I never feel bloated. I never feel bad about it. I never have that feeling in my gut like oh God, I feel terrible. It's pretty cool actually.

Karina Inkster: That’s amazing. So your buddy who offered this challenge is kind of the well, not the whole catalyst, but he's definitely an important piece of the puzzle.

Danny O’Malley: Yeah. Yeah. He was certainly an instigator.

Karina Inkster: An instigator - There you go! That’s the word.

Danny O’Malley: That's right.

Karina Inkster: Yeah. I love it. That's awesome. How cool. And so let's talk about this a little bit. The whole concept that you know, products like yours and products like Beyond, they're not necessarily aimed at folks who are already vegan like us, right? So they're aimed at, you know, in the case of Beyond, for example, I'm seeing them in like A&W, which is a chain here in Canada, which is a fast food place. And I think I've heard the Beyond company actually say like 99% of our customers are not vegan or vegetarian. So how do you kind of, I mean, whether that's accurate or not, I'm not sure. It's probably more like 80% I would think.

Danny O’Malley: There's certainly fluff. I mean, to say it's not vegan or vegetarian I mean come on, but it doesn't matter. Even if it was 60%, that would be huge. Am I right?

Karina Inkster: Right! Yeah, absolutely.

Danny O’Malley: Look in the old days, and now the old days, it's not that long ago.

Karina Inkster: Not in this world.

Danny O’Malley: but let's say even six, seven years ago if you were talking about vegan products, there was one area to go. You would go to the area of the grocery store, where they had vegan products, right? Tofurky, Dr. Prager, Follow Your Heart, whatever other brands there were, Yves, you know, other brands out there. Or in the frozen department, Gardein and Morningstar Farms and all of those, right? Those are traditionally vegan and vegetarian companies, companies that were producing products for vegans and vegetarians, mostly right? And a lot of them are trying to adapt and attract the meat-eaters today as well.

Beyond started that. I don't think anybody would question that Beyond started that wave of vegan and vegetarian companies producing products that would be, or could be attractive to meat-eaters on whatever level, right? So you can call them what you want. You may call them a flexitarian, which is traditionally a vegetarian that from time to time will eat an animal-based product. There's reduce-atarian out there. I like the one: meat-reducer where they're just reducing their content, you know, how much meat they're eating.

And naturally as human beings, we should be doing that anyway. Our bodies do not do a good job with animal-based proteins. And look, all you have to do is look at how many people are allergic to or are sensitive to dairy, right? We're not supposed to be drinking milk from another animal. We’re supposed to be drinking you know, when we're babies drinking milk from our mothers, right? Not another animal's mother. I mean that's not the way our bodies process. And so I'm not sure everybody's going to be educated to that. And that's not really that important Karina. What's important is that they're open to trying these products.

And as these products get better and better, we're creating comfort food. So I told you I grew up meat and potatoes, right? So if you put meat and potatoes on my plate while I was still a meat-eater, and you said hey, try this. It's a little bit different. And I tried it and said, you know what? This is pretty good. And then somebody said to me afterward hey, you know, what you just ate was all plant-based. I might be a little taken back, but I would say that was pretty good.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, sure.

Danny O’Malley: Right. Why wouldn’t you eat it? Especially today, when we understand. You know 20, 30 years ago, we didn't get this whole thing about climate change and environmental issues. All that kind of stuff was just glossed over for a lot of different reasons at a very high level. And today it's exposed and anybody that doesn't get it is a little bit ignorant if you ask me and certainly they are living in a glass box. The honest truth is that information's everywhere and we all have one of these things here.

Karina Inkster: The little computers in our pockets. Yes, indeed.

Danny O’Malley: That’s right. So those computers in a matter of moments can tell you almost everything you need to know. And then it'll tell you things that you don't need to know. And a lot of what we believe is based on misconceptions and untruths, and it's hard sometimes to discover what's real and what's not real. People will make their own decision on that. We can influence that. We can do our best to influence that in the best way. And sometimes we won't. And so I always say to people now, and I'll give you a little correlation here, Karina. The products that we make today are made from non-GMO soy. And we know there are misconceptions behind soy and the health people eating soy products. So I talk to a lot of people about it and you know probably eight out of 10, just have no issue at all with soy.

They understand that it's really a fantastic plant-based protein. It's a complete protein, one of the best in the plant world for you to eat, depending on how it's processed, right? Two out of 10 have an issue with it.

Karina Inkster: Yes, they do.

Danny O’Malley: Okay. And maybe one out of those two, I can talk to and they will be open to listening about it and understanding better what I believe are their misconceptions. So the other one, which is I've got nine out of 10 now that I feel comfortable I can have a good conversation with. That one out of 10 I can't. And so you know what I do Karina? I move on.

Karina Inkster: Good point.

Danny O’Malley: We have to move on. If we don't move on, we're going to be stuck and we won't go anywhere. There's so many things that need to happen. And there's so many good people out there doing good things that when we come up against a wall, we have to find a way to get over that wall. And if you can't find a way to get over the wall, you're not going anywhere right? We have to keep moving. So I move on right?

Karina Inkster: Good approach.

Danny O’Malley: If I can talk to nine out of 10 people and they're willing to listen to me, I'm ecstatic. And that one other person, I will start the conversation and they shut me down and I realize I have to move on and you move on. And I think that's just the way the world works. And you just have to realize we're not going to change everybody.

Karina Inkster: True. Well, here's something that bothers me personally, but at the same time, I understand it. So I feel like I have very mixed feelings. So when I go to a grocery store as an ethical vegan of 18 years, I resent the fact that I have to go into the dead animal section to buy my Beyond burgers. Fricking hate that. However, at the same time, I completely understand that this is a business decision. It is putting a plant-based product right in front, right in the faces of folks who might not have thought of purchasing this product before.

So I mean, I get that some places have these types of products in both the meat areas and the little cooler with the tofu in it. But where is Before the Butcher on this? Like do you make decisions about that? Do you have thoughts around, you know, who the actual target person, the target customer is? Whether they're in the tofu section or in the dead animal section?

Danny O’Malley: Well, it's been an interesting evolution, and Beyond did a very bold and powerful thing, right at the very beginning. They obviously built a partnership with Whole Foods at the very beginning and they created a tremendous amount of desire for their product. It was really brilliant what they did cause they released it in a very limited fashion. And people were just, you know -

Karina Inkster: I remember it was sold out everywhere.

Danny O’Malley: They were so excited when it came to town, right? Whenever it was coming to town. So the desire by the general public was so high that they were really more or less able to dictate to the retailer where this product was going.

Karina Inkster: That’s a good point.

Danny O'Malley: That is very unusual in both foodservice and retail. You generally don't dictate to these companies. They tell you where they're going to put it. So they were able to do something very unique. And by the way, both Beyond and Impossible did some very unique things with their branding on menus in restaurants as well. That broke a glass ceiling too. When you see Beyond branded you know, down here at Carl's Jr or A&W up where you are, or you know, Impossible in Burger King and Starbucks and Beyond in Dunkin’ Donuts -

Karina Inkster: Yeah. They're still branded as Beyond or Impossible or, yeah, that’s a good point.

Danny O’Malley: But think about it. Think about when you walk into a fast food restaurant or most any type of restaurant, how often do you see a product branded?

Karina Inkster: Never!

Danny O’Malley: You don’t. It's very unusual. Usually, at most, you'll see Heinz ketchup on the table, you know what I'm saying?

Karina Inkster: Right! Yes of course.

Danny O’Malley: But you won't even see that on the menu. You'll just see the bottle. And so you're talking about a startup company doing that. That's huge.

Karina Inkster: That’s a great point.

Danny O’Malley: They broke a couple of glass ceilings that we've never seen in the foodservice industry or in the retail industry and it's amazing. It is truly amazing what they were able to do. Now, getting back to your point about whether you go to the dead meat area to pick up this product, do you go to the tofu area or the vegan and vegetarian area?

Karina Inkster: Or maybe none of the above, I don't know.

Danny O’Malley: Look, here’s the deal. Um, they're still confused behind that. The retailers are still battling with it. I've seen the area within the meat department actually shrink for these types of products. And I think their retailers are being very challenged by it. The one retailer that I think has actually done a fairly decent job and has stuck to their guns from the very beginning here in the states is Sprouts. They put it in the frozen department, right from the very beginning. And some of it is - they created a section for plant-based in like a bunker.

Karina Inkster: A bunker! Ha!

Danny O’Malley: We call it a bunker. I mean, it's the way you don't open up the door. You just reach into the bunker. You call it the bunker or the coffin.

Karina Inkster: I like coffin, although coffin is kind of a little morbid perhaps.

Danny O’Malley: It does work for the meat though right?

Karina Inkster: It does. Yes. It works very well for the meat. Yeah.

Danny O’Malley: So I think that may - I have no idea where it came from Karina, but we're going to say that's why it came about because dead meat was in there and they called it a coffin.

Karina Inkster: There you go. There you go. It works perfectly.

Danny O’Malley: So it's in the coffin, but they've stuck to their guns from the very beginning. They’ve put it in the freezer from the beginning. It's been in the freezer ever since. Some of the commercial grocery stores or regular grocery stores down here like Kroger or Albertsons, Walmart, even Target, they've struggled back and forth. You know, you see it in the freezer, you see it in a refrigerator, you see it in the traditional vegan, vegetarian area. My opinion, I think it'll continue to struggle in the meat department. I just think it is a bit of a struggle. I think the average consumer has been educated in regards to these products, including the meat-eaters. They know Beyond Meat. A lot of them know Impossible. A lot of them know Lightlife. They know Morningstar Farms and the others that are out in the market.

Hopefully they know Uncut, my brand, too. But regardless, there are a lot of options out there now, and you, at least down here where I am, you can find those options in the meat department. You can also find those options in the freezer department. And it may not always be the same brands, but you can go into the area where the tofu is and find options too. Because even the vegan and vegetarian companies, most of them are making a plant-based burger that is similar as well. So even Gardein does it and Tofurky does it. I think Dr. Prager came out with one. I believe Yves does it.

And so a lot of the traditional vegan and vegetarian, obviously Morningstar Farms has one too. And I see them in the freezer department too. So I don't know what the balance is going to be. I don't know when we're going to figure out where to put these products and the retailers are still working on it. So I would suggest looking around.

Karina Inkster: Good suggestion.

Danny O’Malley: I don’t think you’ll always have to go into the dead meat department to find it.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, I've noticed actually, even in our, we live in a tiny little town, 13,000 people, right on the ocean, huge vegan population percentage-wise, but numbers-wise, it's not enough to sustain, you know, an entirely vegan restaurant even. But I have noticed in our local grocery stores, it used to be, you know, two to three years ago, the meat section, and now it's either the coffin slash bunker or the tofu Yves kind of like, you know, alternative meat section. Which I prefer, but I also understand the positioning challenges.

Danny O’Malley: Yeah. Well look, they're trying to make money and so just like a meat product, there's a shelf life. And generally, these products are shipped into the distribution centres for the retailers. They're shipped in frozen. And then there's what we call slacked-out or thawed out and put on the shelf. And then there's a certain amount of time, You've got anywhere between seven and 10 days usually, and that product needs to be sold. If it's not, it's getting trashed and you'll see the retailer put it on sale. If it goes on sale, they put a little sticker on there, you know, special today or whatever. That's because it's close to expiration date.

That doesn't mean that it's going to be bad, but look, we usually refer to a use-by date and as manufacturers, we have liability, right? So we want to make sure we're well within what we believe is that the healthy space for eating these products. But honestly, in most cases, you can eat these products for weeks to come and there's still good, depending on who's producing it and how they're producing it. Even some of my products that we put a 10-day shelf life, once it's refrigerated, I can eat it two weeks in or longer. And I'm still here today. So that's a good time.

Karina Inkster: Nothing happened to you! You're still around. That's a good sign for sure. Hey, let's talk about your - oh sorry go ahead.

Danny O’Malley: Another quick, interesting thing about the health aspect behind all of this is, you know, I told you how I feel better and I feel like I'm stronger and faster. Well as we get older, we don't really get faster. Maybe we have better endurance, last longer, I guess. I hope that's the case. But I can pinpoint the last time I got sick. I'm not sure everybody knows that, knows the last time they got sick, but I'm talking to even just getting, you know, a common cold where I'm just feeling down and out for a day or two. And it was about six months before my youngest son was born. So that was 22 and a half years ago.

Karina Inkster: Wow. That's mind-blowing.

Danny O’Malley: Yeah. And I'll knock on wood here cause I have a wood desk, but I feel like there's no reason I won't go another 22 years without getting sick and I feel even better today than I did back then.

Karina Inkster: Well your track record is pretty good. So I think the trajectory is probably going to just continue. That'd be my guess anyway. That's amazing. How cool is that? Well, let's talk about this brand Mainstream. So before we hit record, you mentioned Mainstream is a new brand you have that is kind of on par price-wise, or at least one of the goals of this product is you know, equity in price compared to some of the animal products that it's similar to. So can you tell me and my listeners a little bit about this and what the goal is with Mainstream?

Danny O’Malley: One of the missions for Before the Butcher, my company, and most of the companies out there that are producing these types of products is to create price parity with animal-based proteins that we're trying to mimic.

Karina Inkster: Right.

Danny O’Malley: And it's easier said than done. I get in conversations with people and they're like, wow, you're just using plants. How, why are these products so expensive? And actually processing and making these products is more complicated than making a regular hamburger where they're just taking, you know, flesh and grinding it up, basically. You know, maybe adding some seasoning to it, but basically, they just grind it up and they have a certain percentage of fat in there and then you've got your burger, right? I'm simplifying it, but it is actually pretty simple.

Ours, we have to mix ingredients together and our job really is to create a texture and a flavour profile that's very similar to what you would imagine ground beef would be like if you never had one or the people that actually eat ground beef says, hey that tastes like a burger to me, or a chicken burger or whatever other animal-based product we're trying to mimic. So it's not a simple product or a simple process. If it was really simple, people would make it in their own kitchen. 

Not that people couldn’t. Nowadays actually, there are ways that you could get it done because some of the ingredients that we use are accessible through the internet and so on and so forth, but it's still complicated. So knowing that, it is more expensive for us to produce these types of products

Karina Inkster: Makes sense.

Danny O’Malley: And at the end of the day, all of us hope to be profitable companies, right? So there's a lot of R and D that goes into creating products like this. And you have to find a way to recapture that, especially when you're a growing company because you are always in R and D. We’re always developing or redeveloping. So if we've got a product that we know could get it better, the R and D team is working on that and trying to make it better, whether we're reducing the ingredients in there or providing healthier or trying to find a better bite or texture or colour or taste, you're always improving, or you should be. Otherwise, I don't think you're going to be in business for long. And then we're creating new products. So R and D is always an important part of our company and any other company that makes these types of products. That's part of our overhead, that's part of our cost, and it has to be wrapped into the cost of the products. And so you would naturally, I would hope, understand that our R and D is a lot more than a company making burgers.

Karina Inkster: Definitely.

Danny O'Malley: And our R and D is evolving. They've been making burgers for, I have no idea, a hundred years?

Karina Inkster: Probably!

Danny O’Malley: When was the burger created? You know what, let's say a hundred years, right? We've been doing this for five years. I mean, let me go back. Let's say we've been doing it for 10 years, okay. So, there's a lot more evolution in our type of products than there is, or ever would have been with animal-based proteins. So the cost is a little bit more. Our goal is to create price parity, to get to the point where, you know, a ground beef burger is the same, or maybe we're even less than what a ground beef burger is, but it is going to take time. We have to evolve into that. A couple of things need to happen. Ground beef is not going to go down over time. It's going to continue to go up. We have the advantage of our ingredients, probably staying more stable than beef would be or pork or chicken. And so we have a distinct advantage, I think, right out the gate. One of our disadvantages is we don't get subsidized by the government to produce the product.

Karina Inkster: Mmhmm!

Danny O'Malley: And in the United States that happens.

Karina Inkster: That's a big one.

Danny O’Malley: From dairy to animal-based proteins, they get subsidies to help them produce or grow the product and we don't. And so we have another disadvantage there. And so moving forward, our goal as a company at Before the Butcher, was to hopefully be one of the first companies to really create a product that had price parity. So Mainstream is that product for us. You know, our main brand is Uncut and we created Mainstream to streamline our process. We obviously have gotten better at producing, so we're more efficient, and being more efficient we're able to save some money.

And we know how to scale up now, which was a learning process at the beginning. Scaling up basically going from creating two cases of product to creating 2000 cases. That's a big deal in the industry. It's not that easy to do. And you have to learn how to do it properly in order to get better at producing your products. And of course the more ingredients we buy from our ingredient suppliers, the more competitive we can be in buying those ingredients. So it's a lot of things. We've been in business now for about four years, and we understand how to get that done, and we're pretty efficient at it. So that helps us bring our costs down when we're looking at creating a burger that is more affordable for the consumer to purchase, and that's how Mainstream came about.

And by the way, I love the name Mainstream. I mean, how couldn’t you love that Mainstream?

Karina Inkster: It’s great!

Danny O’Malley: This product is really meant for the mainstream, this is what it's all about. And so we have very high-quality ingredients that we use in our Uncut product. And I don't want to say we don't have high-quality ingredients, but there are different levels of ingredients that you can purchase. And so we evaluate that when we're purchasing products for our ingredients for this product as well. It is a delicious burger. It is very competitive. It's two-pound bags. So there's four, I'm sorry, eight four-ounce burgers in the bag. It is in the freezer department which helps us as well because we don't have to worry about compensating for loss because it's a refrigerated product. So it goes straight into the freezer department in a bag.

So rather than two burgers in a package, now we have eight burgers in a package. And so all of those things save us money. And our goal was to pass that along to the consumer. So it's 10.99 SRP. So that's the standard retail price in the grocery store. That's our suggested retail price for the grocer to put it on their shelf. That is much lower than anybody I've ever seen on the market.

Karina Inkster: Oh yeah. That's for eight patties. That's amazing!

Danny O'Malley: Yeah. And we have a retailer where we started out here called Bristol Farms. It's an upscale retailer with about 20 locations in Southern California, and they've had it on sale for 8.99. And like that is a crazy good price!

Karina Inkster: That is!

Danny O’Malley: Which really competes with ground beef. So this, you would go, if you go into the freezer department, you’ll normally see a section or one door that you open up and you'll see frozen burgers, right. And a lot of them they'll be, if it's a big enough chain, they'll have their own brand. Like Kroger has their own brand of burgers and Walmart has their own brand of burgers. And then there may be a couple of branded products in there.

We are very competitive with those burgers, the frozen burgers, where you would walk in and I would hope that the average consumer would look at two things on the shelf, and this is the struggle for us and for all our competitors: if a consumer goes into a grocery store and says, hey, I want to buy a burger. And I see these four patties, a quarter-pound each, ground beef, 80/20, let's say it is, and it's 5.99. And then I look next to it. And Beyond’s there, or Lightlife's there, Uncut is there, Impossible. And they're 5.99 and 6.99 for two patties. I've got a family of four. Maybe I can do this once a month, once every two weeks, because I'd like to eat this way, eat healthier and help not just myself, but the environment and the animals and so on and so forth. We don't want them to have to think about that. We want them to make a decision without worrying about price and we have a product now that can do it. And we're really excited about it.

Karina Inkster: That's amazing. So are you guys in Canada yet?

Danny O’Malley: We are not. I've had some requests to get up there. I'm a little challenged by Canada.

Karina Inkster: Oh, really? Why is that?

Danny O’Malley: Well, Canada has some formulation requirements that we haven't been challenged by, by trying to export to other countries. We're still a pretty small company. So for us to reformulate our product just to cross the border, is a little bit too much for us right now. The burger in Canada, Beyond’s burger in Canada is different than the one in the US.

Karina Inkster: I did not know that. Nope. Did not know that.

Danny O’Malley: Yeah. There are formulation requirements that are you know, that the Canadian government has that in my opinion are a little bit antiquated and I believe they're working on it. And if those adjustments are made, we would love to cross the border and we're just not ready to reformulate our product, just for Canada today.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, that makes total sense. I actually had no idea. That's an area I know nothing about. So I learned something today.

Danny O’Malley: You would, probably I think the best way to notice it is most of the products that are in the US that are in Canada, if you look at the ingredients statement on the back will be a little bit different. The nutritional facts may be a little bit different. And they're usually larger companies that have the ability to make the wheels turn that way.

Karina Inkster: Makes sense. Well hopefully, our government gets his shit together because I feel like in a lot of ways it took them how long to finally put out a food guide that wasn't influenced by industry. Like it just happened in the last couple of years. It's kind of ridiculous. So, you know, we're kind of moving in that direction, but it's taken a while So hopefully -

Danny O’Malley: Well stand in a long line, I don’t know of any government -

Karina Inkster: Exactly, haha! So Danny, where can our listeners find out more about Before the Butcher or you? Where can they connect?

Danny O’Malley: Well, they could go to and you can learn about all of our products. You can even learn a little bit about me. There's a media page on there. And most of that, it's not all about me, but I am in there as well.

Karina Inkster: Aw shucks!

Danny O’Malley: Actually Karina, you know we've been very fortunate to have a lot of media, all the way from Good Morning America to Forbes and Wall Street Journal and New York Times and LA Times and so on and so forth. So we've been really - Fox news. Actually, every news channel has featured us at one point in time. So you can see most of that on our website. And you can see our products. You can actually order our products. You can go online and order our products. There is a Canadian company, that actually has our products. It's Shop Vejji.

Karina Inkster: I don't know that company. I know Vegan Supply, but I don't know Shop Vejji.

Danny O’Malley: Shop Vejji. They are actually a Canadian company that's doing business in the US and they're in the process of going public on the Canadian stock exchange. Look it up.

Karina Inkster: Wow. Good for them. I'm going to check these out. Yeah, for sure.

Danny O’Malley: V E J J I :Vejjii.

Karina Inkster: Oh, I see. Okay. Vejji.

Danny O’Malley: Yeah. Take a look at it. Mainstream is available, Now I don't know whether they are shipping it to Canada.

Karina Inkster: Right. They might not, but it's worth checking out.

Danny O’Malley: But you can check it out. But our products are accessible that way. If somebody can come to the States and get them I guess.

Karina Inkster: You know, when I lived in Vancouver that's what we used to do. We used to order stuff, get it shipped to Point Roberts, which was like a 20-minute drive away. And then we just crossed the border for two seconds and pick it up.

Danny O’Malley: Do it Karina! Do it!

Karina Inkster: Well, now it's going to take me seven hours though, but I could get someone in Vancouver to do it for me I guess.

Danny O’Malley: Yeah!

Karina Inkster: It’d be worth it.

Danny O’Malley: By the way, I love that Vancouver is such a cool city.

Karina Inkster: And it's so vegan-friendly, I mean, seriously, it's vegan Mecca. It's amazing. Yeah, it’s incredible.

Danny O’Malley: Everything up in our Northwest and then up on your west coast is very vegan-friendly up there, right?

Karina Inkster: Absolutely. That's one of the main things I miss honestly, about living in a small town is the vegan restaurant options. I mean, I'm okay with making my own stuff, but just being able to go into an establishment and pick literally anything off the menu, don't really have that option anymore.

Danny O’Malley: We have a few down here.

Karina Inkster: Oh, I bet!

Danny O’Malley: We have fast-food chains that are all vegan.

Karina Inkster: Oh yeah. What's it called? Uh, there's one I'm thinking of - Veggie Grill.

Danny O’Malley: Yeah Veggie Grill.

Karina Inkster: Love Veggie Grill.

Danny O’Malley: They have the Beyond Burger.

Karina Inkster: I remember them from, I think it was Portland when we were there.

Danny O’Malley: Yeah. They're great.

Karina Inkster: It’s amazing. Danny, it was awesome speaking with you. Thank you so much for coming on the show. We're going to have show notes so our listeners can connect and get links to your sites, et cetera. But yeah, it was fantastic speaking with you. Thanks so much.

Danny O’Malley: You as well Karina. I appreciate the time and we'll have to do it again.

Karina Inkster: Absolutely. Danny, thanks again for joining me on the podcast, much appreciated. Find our show notes at to connect with Danny. Thank you for tuning in, and I hope you'll join me for our next episode featuring yours truly and Coach Zoe doing some serious bullshit busting about the fitness industry.

Download your free vegan strength training ebook by Coach K!

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