I am by no means a vegetarian. My top three favourite meals are crab cakes, chicken marsala, and cheeseburgers.
So when Beyond Meat claimed it invented a plant-based veggie burger that tastes like beef, I was curious to try it. It sounded too good to be true.
The new Beyond Burger launched May 23 at a Whole Foods in Boulder, Colorado, the only store it’s available in so far. Each package comes with two four-ounce patties; and at $5.99, it’s almost twice the price of beef per ounce.
When I opened the package, the patties looked exactly like raw beef — except 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 compared to a normal burger.
Since the patty is made of plants, I wasn’t sure whether to coat the pan with oil or not. The package’s instructions didn’t mention anything, so I just threw it on a small skillet in medium-high heat.
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 immediately 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 juice on the spatula, although it didn’t look exactly like normal beef blood.
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 it taste more like a normal burger, next time I would use steak seasoning.
Inside, bits of veggies mimicked the muscles and flesh of a cow. Overall, it was tasty and juicy, unlike most veggie burgers which can often taste closer to cardboard than beef.
It’s not the first plant-based burger from the seven-year-old startup, but it’s the first from Beyond Meat that’s not sold in the frozen food aisle. And unlike other veggie burgers by popular brands such as Amy’s and Morningstar, the Beyond Burger sits next to real refrigerated beef at the Colorado Whole Foods. Beyond Meat plans to distribute it to more stores later this year.
Since the Beyond Burger somewhat closely mimics the experience of eating a traditional burger, it may be one step closer to a more environmentally friendly patty.
Meat production is harsh on the planet. Traditional livestock farming accounts for an estimated 18% of all global greenhouse emissions, uses 70% of the world’s water, and exhausts 47,000 square miles of land every year. Cattle is the main source of this environmental havoc.
Beyond Meat aims to shake up the $48 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.
Another similar startup, called Impossible Foods, will soon launch a plant-based “cheeseburger,” which has already raised a VC backing to the tune of $108 million. It 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,” he 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 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.
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