Tennis star Nick Kyrgios' partnering with prominent plant-based beef substitute company Beyond Meat is being heavily promoted by vegan groups during the Australian Open.
Kyrgios came on board as a celebrity partner last year but the United States-based company officially welcomed him on social media this week, saying he is 'part of the next generation of professional athletes turning to Beyond Meat to enhance their game.'
The Aussie elite athlete appears to have followed a vegan diet for some years now. In January two years ago, when Australia was being ravaged by bushfires, he wrote a column for Athlete's Voice titled 'The Koala Photo That Broke My Heart'.
He said he was passionate about animal welfare and that he did not eat meat or dairy - not for health reasons but because he does not believe in eating animals.
He said with all the travel he does it was hard to stick with a vegan diet but he had managed to make it work.
Seeing the footage of animals suffering in the fires had reinforced why he had chosen to go vegan, he wrote.
"I can't comprehend eating meat," Kyrgios wrote.
When he partnered with Beyond Meat, Kyrgios posted on social media: "These guys have come up with something pretty special with their meat-free burger patties."
Celebrities promoting diets or foods, and partnering with companies or even entire industries, is nothing new.
Meat & Livestock Australia's marketing campaigns that partnered with olympic and paralympic stars last year had enormous success. Having the likes of champion javelin thrower Kelsey-Lee Barber talk about beef's nutritional value, and the important role it plays in her diet, was gold.
So while cattle producers may decide not to go for Kyrgios anymore, there really is no bone to pick from that perspective.
One interesting aspect to his endorsement, however, has been pointed out by nutritionists.
A vegan diet can deliver all the nutrients a person needs but it rarely does, they say.
Because it is missing complete proteins with all amino acids present and essential vitamins like B12, it requires extensive food and nutrition knowledge to pair the right foods to obtain those macro and micronutrients.
For the same reason, it requires extensive planning, the ability source not-so-readily available foods and generally more expense.
For an elite sportsperson with a big support crew and perhaps even a personal chef, that's not an issue.
For the average person copying those diet choices, it is.
Registered nutritionist Anthony Power said because 'pairing' plant foods to make up the required amino acids was extremely difficult, many vegans opted to supplement.
"And that's where they go down a rabbit hole. Having to add on because your foundations are rocky is always an issue," he said.
"A vegan diet has to be done very well to be healthy. Most of the people I see with issues in this area have found their satiety needs are not met - they are hungry - so they fall into the trap of eating rubbish like chips and bickies and pick-me-ups, which of course tick the vegan box but are not healthy.
"Animal protein is a complete protein, with all the vitamins and minerals that a processed vegan burger doesn't have. That's science."
Shan Goodwin steers ACM’s national coverage of the beef industry. Shan has worked as a journalist for 30 years, the majority of that with agricultural publications. She spent many years as The Land’s North Coast reporter and has visited beef properties and stations throughout the country and overseas. She treats all breeds equally.
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