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Enjoy the Burger, Save the Cow: Graziadio Alumna Whitney Stambler Shares How Beyond Meat is Changing the Future of the Meat Industry

Throughout history, the human race has evolved alongside discovery, innovation, and the pursuit of happiness. Nonetheless, we’ve also faced countless forms of adversity, experiencing various challenges throughout time. It is said by Agatha Christie that “necessity is the mother of invention,” meaning we sometimes don’t seek a solution to a problem until it is vital—even if the crisis has been looming for quite some time.

Some of humanity’s most powerful solutions came from solving the world’s most pressing issues. Eventually, those small—or large—ideas blossom into something grander, a powerful force that shapes the course of humanity. As people, we have an innate desire to solve the problems that affect us. We dabble in finding ways to improve the lives of humans—but what about improving the lives of those that aren’t human?

The meat industry is one element in particular that poses a significant opportunity for change. Meat is a staple of many individual’s diets. It’s part of the culture; it’s a mass part of society. But as the human population continues to increase exponentially, the demand for food consistently rises. Although, how can businesses meet global demand while also farming ethically and sustainably? The truth is, unfortunately, a lot of times, they cannot. Factory farming is a critical issue confronting the globe. From extremely inhumane animal treatment, the use of sizable amounts of natural resources, limited availability of land, coupled with a considerable carbon footprint resulting from meat production, it can be easy to pinpoint some of the critical issues with factory farming and meat production. 

So, what is a viable alternative solution? Plant-based meats.

Los Angeles founded Beyond Meat is a plant-based meat company focusing on improving the lives of humans while simultaneously saving the planet, animals and contributing to the future growth of society from a sustainable point of view. With plant-based meats as an alternative, consumers do not have to be challenged with giving up their burger or hot dog to save a life, reduce their carbon footprint, and contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle. Instead, they quite literally can eat their cake—or meat—and have it too. The narrative of corporate social responsibility is no longer just a trend. Many businesses and organizations have shifted their focus from simply increasing their bottom-line—operating from the principle of corporate social responsibility as a force for social, environmental, and economic well-being. Businesses are discovering consumers want to shop and buy from places that adhere to operating ethically—doing what’s best for all, not just the human race.

See below for our interview with Beyond Meat's Whitney Stambler (MBA ‘17) on why she loves working at Beyond Meat and the industry’s future. 

Please provide some insight into your professional and academic background.

I went to the University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business, where I earned my Bachelor of Science degree and then later completed my MBA from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business School. I’ve been working in the food industry for almost seven years now, roughly 3 of which have been at Beyond Meat, where I’m a Senior Project Manager. It’s an incredible industry to be in. My previous professional experience has been in marketing, operations, and inventory management. 

What drew you to attend Graziadio?

The reputation, of course! I also valued the fully employed program, which gave me the flexibility to continue working while going to class. I wanted that in-person experience, so I wasn’t looking for anything online. It was very convenient that the West LA campus was so close to where I was working. 

The future of the meat industry is rapidly changing, with plant-based options gaining mass popularity. Beyond Meat is not only an industry disruptor but an integral part of how we can achieve a sustainable future globally. What drew you to work for Beyond Meat?

Interestingly enough, I learned about Beyond Meat at my last job because we had a partnership with them. So when I saw a job posting on LinkedIn looking for a project manager, I didn’t hesitate to apply. I knew about their great mission, and I had already tried their products and thought they were excellent! It was also super helpful to talk to some of my former co-workers to see how it was working with them on the partnership side, and I also knew some people already working at Beyond Meat who were able to offer me their honest feedback.  

What has your experience been working at Beyond Meat? What are some of your favorite aspects?

Endless growth! It has not slowed down at all these last years, not even during Covid. Beyond Meat continues to accelerate, and that is something that has always been very important to me at any job. It’s also been an exciting year so far in bringing so many new products to the market. Some of my favorite aspects are the people I work with. It makes a world of difference when working closely with others who are just as motivated as you are to execute projects. My absolute favorite aspect is when I see one of the projects I worked on out in the market. It’s such a feeling of accomplishment! I also love the events that Beyond Meat throws for us employees. Of course, due to Covid, we couldn’t have any this past year, but I can’t wait to partake in them again. It’s also a huge plus to try our products before they launch in the market! 

Plant-based meats are hard for some people to wrap their heads around and consider an alternative to animal meat. What would you say to them?

Try it, and then judge! Treat it like any average food that you are branching out to try. I experienced this with my own family. Maybe not something I should say, but I come from a meat-eating family, so it was quite shocking for them to learn I accepted a position at a plant-based company. However, when I told them how good it was, they, of course, were supportive and tried it and were pleasantly surprised how it tasted like meat! They continue to buy our products (without any pressure from me to do so).

At Graziadio, we talk a lot about ethical and values-based leadership. One of the biggest reasons I love Beyond Meat is the emphasis on animal welfare. Why do you think this is a critical focus for Beyond Meat?

It all comes back to our core mission. It's amazing that by emphasizing animal welfare, we can also improve human health, positively impact climate change, and address global resource constraints. Studies have shown that eating plant-based products is better for you and how much our world can benefit by switching or even just reducing the amount of meat they consume. So with an emphasis on animal welfare, Beyond Meat can focus on tackling all the different product lines to get more people to change how they eat because they will have a fantastic alternative to buy.

Lastly, I know that Beyond Meat recently launched a new chicken product. How do you like it?

I LOVE it! The team did an incredible job. This is the year of chicken for us!