Up Hampton Creek, Without a Paddle

Josh TetrickDonors to the Humane Society of the United States are surprised to learn that only 1% of their gift goes to local pet shelters. Instead, much of the money is wasted on overhead, and HSUS has stuffed tens of millions of dollars in offshore hedge funds instead of helping animals. Another questionable use of donors’ funds is investments that HSUS, which is run by anti-meat activists, has quietly made in vegan startups such as Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek Foods.

Hampton Creek Foods was co-founded by HSUS food policy director Josh Balk and his childhood friend Josh Tetrick, and it has the stated goal of eliminating the egg industry by creating plant-protein egg replacements. Aside from HSUS, the company reportedly has a number of big-name investors and the news media has fawned over the operation. But it may all be a facade.

This week Business Insider blew the lid off salacious allegations concerning Hampton Creek, reporting that the company “used shoddy science, or ignored science completely, stretched the truth when labeling samples, and created an uncomfortable and unsafe work environment.”

Business Insider talked to a number of former employees who dished out the dirt that things aren’t what they seem. The allegations range from incompetence to ethical improprieties such as trying to alter employee contracts behind employees’ backs.

On the anonymous job review site Glassdoor.com, reviews of Hampton Creek raised some serious concerns to the publication:

“Say goodbye to your morals if you want to work in R&D here.”

“Employees treated unethically on a frequent basis”

 “If you care about doing things ethically, don’t work here.”

“Instead of making better food, it is partnering with mega-corporation to ‘greenwash’ them.”

“CEO…can also make a lot of misogynistic/sexual comments which doesn’t really foster the best working environment for women.”

“Not the company everyone thinks it is…A lot of inconsistencies between public persona and actual company practices…some practices flirt with ethical boundaries.”

“The culture is vaguely cult-like.”

“[The CEO] is manipulative, condescending & abusive to people.”

Reviews of Hampton Creek on Glassdoor markedly improved all of a sudden starting July 7, after Business Insider started reporting the story, which should raise a giant red flag.

As Dr. Simon Shane, a poultry and egg expert, points out, Hampton Creek has supposedly raised $100 million over the past couple of years and yet has seemingly little to show for it: A vegan mayo, vegan cookie dough, and vegan pancake mix.

Speaking of the $100 million, how much of it came from HSUS, and is Josh Balk benefiting from his employer’s use of tax-exempt funds to invest in the operation? As a co-founder of Hampton Creek, presumably he has equity in the startup—which would seem to be a glaring conflict of interest.

At the very least, this is just one more instance of HSUS misuse of donor funds. HSUS donors should be appalled at where their dollars are going. But if there’s one thing we should expect, it’s that no one at HSUS will be held accountable. As for Hampton Creek, there may be much more that will come to light.