Robert is self-proclaimed "foodie" and an unrepentant carnivore.
Meatless burgers, commonly called “veggie burgers,” have been around for a long time. Anyone who has tried one will tell you that they are no substitute for the real thing! Veggie burgers are simply patties made of ground vegetables, grains, and fruits. They have at best a slight resemblance to actual burgers.
In the past year, options for meatless burgers have changed dramatically. Several companies are using modern food processing technologies to produce products that have the texture and flavor of real beef patties, without using any meat.
Two new companies – Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat – are garnering the most attention right now, but established companies like Néstle, Tyson Foods and McDonalds are also working on their own alternatives.
Their products are getting a lot of attention. News reports tell of people literally lining up to try them. Restaurants have reported shortages of both the Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat products.
Too find out how they stack up, I sampled both burgers.
I first tried the Impossible Burger at The Farmer’s Union, a casual restaurant in San Jose, California. I was frankly amazed! It didn’t just taste like a burger… it tasted like a really good burger.
Impossible Foods has extracted the “heme” molecule from soy. It’s the molecule that gives beef it’s unique flavor, and also gives a burger that familiar juiciness.
I’ve also tried the Impossible Whopper at Burger King. Although it’s a little harder to taste the burger itself due to the toppings and sauces, the Impossible Whopper tastes exactly like the regular Whopper. It even has the familiar char-broiled taste that Burger King is known for.
Impossible Foods is quickly signing up restaurants to distribute their beef products. The list includes Burger King, Red Robin, White Castle, Umami Burger, Qdoba, The Cheesecake Factory, Applebee’s, and more.
In addition to hamburgers, the Impossible Foods beef-substitute is being used in tacos, meatballs, and pizza toppings. The company has just announced distribution deals with several grocery chains; their beef substitute will be available in stores by the end of 2019.
The Impossible Burger is vegan and gluten free (though some restaurants may use animal fats in cooking).
The company is also working on chicken and fish substitutes.
It’s Not Always Perfect
Finally, I tried an Impossible Burger in the restaurant at a Bass Pro shop. It was awful! It was dry, and had the consistency of cardboard. In a way, this shows that the Impossible Burger is very much like a real beef burger… it can be ruined by bad cooking.
Most reviewers, including me, give the Beyond Meat burgers high marks for the beef taste and texture… but not as high as the Impossible Burger. And unlike the Impossible Burger, the Beyond Meat Burger doesn’t “bleed,” so you don’t get the juiciness of a real beef burger.
Like Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat is signing up restaurants as quickly as possible. Their list includes A&W, Subway, Del Taco, TGI Friday’s, Carl’s Jr., Dunkin’, and Uno Pizzeria. KFC is testing the company’s chicken substitute.
Beyond Meat hamburger patties and sausages are now available in major grocery chains, so you can try them at home. The burger cooks just like a real beef patty, though there is a slight “vegetal” smell while it’s cooking, and it doesn’t ooze juice.
Like the Impossible Burger, the Beyond Meat product is vegan and gluten-free.
Why Do We Need Meatless Burgers?
Both Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have produced great beef substitutes.
Contrary to what you might expect, their products are not particularly healthy. Data on their company websites shows that they are a little lower in fat, and a little higher in protein and fiber than real beef, but they are also higher in sodium.
The main reasons for eating beef substitutes are not health related.
For vegetarians and vegans, it’s possible to enjoy a great burger while avoiding the ethical dilemma of eating animal proteins.
For environmentalists, beef substitutes have a much lower impact on the planet. Raising cattle requires a lot of land, and large amounts of water. According to data on the US Geological Survey (USGS) website, producing just one pound of beef requires 1,800 gallons on water!
In addition, cattle produce large amounts of methane – a greenhouse gas.
Finally, ground beef is easily contaminated. There have been several large outbreaks of salmonella attributed to contaminated beef.
Currently, the meat substitute products are a little more expensive than real meat, but as manufacturing ramps up, prices will fall. Also, with water costs rising due to climate change, the price of producing animal protein will probably increase.
The reduced environmental impact of meat substitutes, along with their great taste, make a compelling case for moving away from animal products.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Robert Nicholson