When Danny O’Malley founded Before the Butcher in 2017, he was ready to shake up the plant-based meat alternatives category. Though his company was the "new kid on the block," O’Malley himself was a veteran. He previously worked for Beyond Meat, which like Impossible, was an early leader in this category. O’Malley credits much of what he learned there to his current success with Before the Butcher.

“One of the reasons I left Beyond Meat was because I thought I could do something to enhance what they had already done on the market," O’Malley told me during a meeting at Plant Based World Expo in September. "Nutritionally, when we first brought out our burger, we were the third one, but we did it with a much lower sodium content. Our 4-oz burger has 240 mg of sodium, compared to the others which were both over 500 mg. The consumer was very aware of the sodium content. Taking that into consideration, we’re always very aware of the nutritional value, using all-natural ingredients, and keeping the sodium down the best that we can."

As our conversation developed, I sensed a lot of passion from O’Malley. He spoke about his upbringing in Milwaukee, eating meat and potatoes most nights for dinner. Reminiscing on his introduction to Beyond Meat, O’Malley recalls a conversation with a Beyond worker. “There were only two sales people at the time. I was working at Sysco. He came to me and said, ‘You’re in Southern California, which is the best market for our products and you guys aren’t selling them. You have a couple products in the back of the store.’ I had heard of them at the time, but didn’t know much about them. I believed in what they were doing. Before he left, he said, ‘I’m on the East coast. We’re looking for someone on the West coast to handle sales. If you know anyone, let me know.”

The rest of the story, you can figure out. O’Malley got the job and soon entered the plant-based industry. 

The Early Days of Before the Butcher

As a young company, Before the Butcher had to tackle the challenges of COVID-19. O’Malley credits his great team of partners and investors for helping him get through the pandemic. “We didn’t make money during that time. Most people think retail exploded for plant-based brands during COVID-19. We were in Krogers, Ralphs, Whole Foods, and a lot of our products sat in warehouses. Retailers were trying to figure out what to do with it.”
In an effort to stay afloat, O’Malley had to pivot. “We adjusted, and realized there was a lot more we could do to grow our business. We started doing ingredient or industrial business, working with processors that needed our products to make pizzas, burritos, and put that into retail. We also thrived in private label, creating formulas for other companies that wanted unique products.” 
Their extensive line of offerings, O’Malley says, is what separates them from other plant-based alternative brands. Their line of finished products includes pulled pork, chicken chunks, beef tips, and chorizo. At Before the Butcher, they strive to make a product that has nutritional value, while also mimicking the chew and texture of the non plant-based meat. 

Looking Toward the Future of Plant Based

As Before the Butcher grows and the interest in plant-based expands to more consumers, O’Malley hopes the industry will grow with it. “The industry is flat right now, but we’re going to see more companies coming out with whole muscle meats, like steaks and filets. I hope we see great bacon too. It's hard to produce.”

O’Malley also envisions more vegetable forward options. “We’re developing some of that now—a plant-forward burger," he shares. "You’re going to see the plant and vegetables that are in it. Consumers are interested in that and more of the natural ingredients.”

In the past, O’Malley adds, such options have been hard to make, but they’re finding a way forward. “The challenge of eating a veggie burger is that they fall apart. The plant-based burgers hold together like a burger. Is there something in between? We’re listening, because the consumers are asking for it.” 

Plant-Forward Thinking

Before the Butcher centers its mission on creating products that focus on the health of human beings and the planet, and the welfare of animals. These goals align with O’Malley's personal values. “It’s who I am. This is my lifestyle, the way I eat, and I believe in it. I wanted to work for a company that I believed in. I wouldn’t have my company if it wasn’t for Beyond and what they did to pave that path, as well as Impossible.” 

When O’Malley attended a family wedding several years ago, his brother surprised him with encouraging news. “He said ‘Karen [his brother’s wife] and I are eating mostly vegetarian. I was worried about our health and longevity.' They eat a little fish and chicken from time to time, but he has a routine,” recounts O’Malley, who believes that, if willing, anybody can make the change to a healthier lifestyle. “The reality is, people who are open to the opportunity to eat healthier can do so without making huge adjustments in their life. We make our own decisions.” WF

Related: 5 Trends From Plant Based World Expo