‘No harm, no fowl’: Seattle start-up brings plant-based chicken nuggets to cafeterias

Jul 11, 2019, 5:33 PM
Plant-based chicken nuggets...
The Rebellyous nuggets, all gussied up (Photo by Glenn Lacey)
(Photo by Glenn Lacey)

Veggie burgers and plant based chicken nuggets have been around for a while now, but the target audience was always vegetarians. But in the last couple of years, with the invention of the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat, more and more meat eaters have been dipping a toe into the faux meat world.

A new Seattle start-up called Rebellyous Foods is making vegan chicken nuggets and exclusively serving them in hospital and school cafeterias and, so far, just a few restaurants.

“And the reason that we chose those partners in order to launch our product was quite simply because that’s where people eat chicken nuggets!” said Christie Legally, founder and CEO of Rebellyous Foods. “They eat them in cafeterias, they eat them at the dorm dining hall. But it’s also the places where people have the opportunity to make a quick decision and if they have that really easy decision to just choose plant based chicken nuggets instead of animal based chicken nuggets, making that choice easy is what’s going to make plant-based meat replacements something that can make a seismic shift both for our planet, the animals and the environment.”

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The nuggets are made with soy and wheat and have less saturated fat and sodium and more fiber than chicken nuggets.

“There are actually quite a lot of fake chicken products out there right now, but the major reason those products haven’t taken over the market is because they’re too expensive and they’re not widely available.”

The Rebellyous nuggets cost the same as the chicken version, and Legally credits the factory machinery they’ve developed to keeping the cost down. Something she knows a lot about.

“I was working up at the Everett Boeing facility, working on manufacturing technology for the 777 and the 777X wing builds,” Legally said. “So I’m a manufacturing and aerospace engineer. I’ve spent my whole career working on aircraft and spacecraft. But also, like many people, really wanted to address some of the major issues that are plaguing our society. Climate change, human health, chronic diseases as a result of what we’re eating. In the meat industry: cruelty to animals, destruction of our environment as a result of massive meat consumption and production. Really felt like I needed to commit my career to making a difference in these kinds of issues.”

She went the venture capital route and raised more than $2 million dollars to start the company, and Rebellyous is getting ready to expand to a bigger facility to meet the demands of her customers.

“Mintel, which is a reporter of trends within the food industry, says that at least 30 percent of Americans want to regularly replace meat on their plate.”

And she says Americans eat a lot of chicken nuggets; so many, that even Tyson is getting into the plant based “chicken” nugget business.

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“Chicken is the largest sector of the meat industry and chicken nuggets, patties and strips is actually the largest sector of the chicken industry. It’s actually 52 percent of the chicken industry. As a result we wanted to go after the largest sector of the largest segment of the food industry.”

In 2015 the World Health Organization declared that all processed meats are carcinogens, something you might not want to feed your family. And Rebellyous Foods is just one company trying to provide an alternative. Their tagline? “No harm. No fowl.”

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‘No harm, no fowl’: Seattle start-up brings plant-based chicken nuggets to cafeterias