When Beyond Meat, a company that produces plant-based alternatives to animal proteins, claimed it invented a veggie burger that tastes like beef, it sounded too good to be true.
But the Beyond Burger has grown in popularity since it was first sold at a Whole Foods in Boulder, Colorado last year. Since then, the product has become available in 350 more Whole Foods locations, and 280 Safeways. In July, it came to eight of burger chain BurgerFi’s 101 locations.
Now it is launching in 1,300 stores owned by Kroger, the largest grocery chain in the United States, across 13 states. The rollout begins Thursday, and will more than triple Beyond Meat’s distribution of the burger once it’s complete.
Each package of Beyond Burgers comes with two four-ounce patties. It’s usually sold for $US5.99 — almost twice the price of beef per ounce.
When I opened the package, the patties looked exactly like raw beef — but they’re made mainly from pea protein, yeast extract, and coconut oil. They contain beet juice, which gives them a reddish colour.
According to the nutrition label on the back, the Beyond Burger has significantly more protein, sodium, calories, and fat than a normal burger.
When I cooked my first patty, I threw it on a small skillet without oil. Unlike most veggie burgers I’ve tried, the Beyond Burger sizzled like meat. It didn’t smell like beef, however — more like a vegetable I couldn’t identify. Peas perhaps?
About three minutes later, I flipped the patty over, and it was slightly browned.
After waiting about three more minutes, the burger was done. It generated a lot of liquid on the spatula, although it didn’t really look like normal beef burger juices.
After I added lettuce, tomato, and ketchup, I took a bite. In a blind taste test, it definitely wouldn’t fool me as beef, but its texture was shockingly close — and it was even pink in the middle. To make the patty taste more like a normal burger, next time I would use steak seasoning.
Inside, bits of veggies mimicked the texture of ground beef. Overall, it was tasty and juicy, unlike most veggie burgers that often taste closer to cardboard.
Beyond Meat sells other plant-based burgers, but the Beyond Burger is the first that’s not sold in the frozen food aisle — it sits next to real refrigerated beef at Whole Foods.
Beyond Meat aims to shake up the $US48 trillion global meat industry by creating palatable alternatives. For that reason, it’s garnered much hype from vegetarians, meat-eaters, and a long list of investors, including Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, the Humane Society, and Bill Gates.
Since the Beyond Burger somewhat closely mimics a traditional burger, it may represent a step towards creating a more environmentally friendly patty.
Meat production can be harsh on the planet. Traditional livestock farming accounts for an estimated 18% of global greenhouse emissions, uses 70% of the world’s water, and exhausts 47,000 square miles of land every year.
Beyond Meat isn’t the only company attempting to challenge the beef industry. Another similar startup, Impossible Foods has already raised $US182 million in VC backing. The Impossible Burger has also received rave reviews, including one from world-renowned chef and Momofuku founder David Chang.
“Today I tasted the future and it was vegan: this burger was juicy/bloody and had real texture like beef. But more delicious and way better for the planet,” Chang wrote in a Facebook post. “I can’t really comprehend its impact quite yet…but I think it might change the whole game.”
Although Americans are among the highest per capita eaters of meat in the world, a growing number of people in the country are slowly cutting down.
Both Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are riding that trend, but unlike many other vegetarian brands, the two startups are targeting carnivores.
It’s hard to change habits — especially when it comes to enjoying a delicious burger — but inconspicuous veggie burgers like Beyond Meat’s could be the key.