Product Review: Beyond Burger & Beyond Meat
When it comes to reviewing things like Beyond Meat, it's vital to know where, culinary-wise, the reviewer is coming from. I have been an on-again-off-again vegetarian throughout my life. I have also had long runs as a vegan and a low-carber who dined on steak and salad with glee. Currently, I eat a diet heavily stacked with veggies with smaller amounts of grains, nuts, beans, and animal products like seafood, dairy, beef, and poultry. Essentially, nothing is off-limits, but I do tend to avoid processed foods in general and place vegetables as the base of my food pyramid. The diet has freed me from food guilt or food rules and has given me a lot of spring in my step. I have enjoyed veggie burgers over the years, whether I was vegetarian or not, and my freezer is still stacked with some of my favorites.
Currently, there is a new trend in plant-based burgers. With the Beyond Burger at chains like TGI Friday's, Hardee's, Subway, and Dunkin', more traditional meat-eaters are opting to try these new plant-based alternatives. The fundamental change has been creating a burger or meat substitute that very closely resembles ground beef with a goal for it to taste, feel, and look as close as possible to ground beef. The traditional veggie burger was never about trying to be like beef—instead, it was marketed to people who did not want to eat meat and preferred their patty to look like chopped veggies, legumes, and grains. This shift in wanting a meat-like burger is reflected in who is buying these new plant-based burgers. "In fact, research done by the NPD Group, an analytics company, found that almost 90% of people who purchased meatless burgers weren't vegetarian or vegan." (Are Beyond Burgers and Impossible Burgers Healthier than Meat? By Moira Lawler, Medically Reviewed by Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDCES, June 12, 2020, everydayhealth.com) Many non-vegans and non-vegetarians site environmental and health concerns in choosing to put more plant-based options into their daily diet. Products like Beyond Burger certainly seem like they would help with that goal, especially if it is nearly as delicious as an often-perceived guilty pleasure like a burger. However, the truth is that Beyond Burgers are not as healthy as you think. 90% lean ground beef and 93% ground turkey have less saturated fat and dramatically less sodium than the Beyond Burger. (Are Beyond Burgers and Impossible Burgers Healthier than Meat? By Moira Lawler, Medically Reviewed by Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDCES, June 12, 2020, everydayhealth.com)
I purchased both Beyond Meat and Beyond Burgers. I prepared the Beyond Meat according to the taco recipe found on the Beyond Meat website. If you were a vegan or vegetarian, you would be very freaked out by this product, as it genuinely looks and cooks just like ground beef. It was super weird. However, if you love meat but want to try some plant-based options or a plant-based eater who wants to nudge friends or family members into going plant-based, this might impress them. The recipe from the website was easy and tasted good. As a taco filling, I found the Beyond Meat did well—although heavily seasoning anything with Mexican spices can turn anything into a wonderful taco filling. Even my committed, meat-eating dad loves my tacos made with a crumbled chickpea filling. Adding ground chipotle chili powder, garlic, cinnamon, orange, lime, lemon, cumin, and coriander makes anything taste like heaven. Additionally, crumbled chickpeas have the health and environmental benefits many omnivores are looking to integrate into their lives. The other big elephant in the room regarding Beyond Meat was the price. One 16-ounce package of Beyond Meat at Target is $8.29. I was able to make 12 tacos. I can also make 12 tacos with two cans of chickpeas for $1.98 (chickpeas are $.99 a can at Target). My recipe: 2 cans of chickpeas rinsed and drained. Lightly mash with a potato masher or pulse in a food processor until crumbled but not pureed into a paste. Place in skillet with either favorite Mexican seasonings (plus salt) and 2/3 cup water or a taco seasoning packet plus 2/3 cup water. Simmer until water has evaporated and taco filling is stiff enough to be spooned into tacos. If it gets too dry, add a little more water. This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled, or more.
We grilled the Beyond Burgers. We did not add cheese, but we did add BBQ sauce as well as mustard. There were three of us. One of the people LOVED the burger. The other person liked the burger a lot and was impressed by it. I was the odd man out in that I did not like the burger. I thought it tasted weird and a little bland. If I made them again, I would definitely add some additional seasonings to the patty. Like the Beyond Meat, price is a HUGE problem with this product. Beyond Burgers come in packs of two, which cost $5.29 at Target. To make four quarter-pound burgers, it would cost you $10.58 ($2.65 a burger). A one-pound pack of 93% lean ground beef was $6.79 at Target ($1.70 a burger), and a pound of 93% lean ground Turkey was $3.99 ($1.00 a burger). Nutritionists agree that a side-by-side comparison of ground beef or turkey over 90% lean was slightly healthier than the Beyond Burger. They were lower in saturated fat and dramatically lower in sodium.
If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, I would say these are exciting times to be alive. With major chains offering plant-based meats, gone are the days of struggling to find places to eat when you are on the go or out with friends. Beyond Burger is a satisfying, protein-rich product that I would have appreciated when I was a strict vegan/vegetarian—especially while traveling. Additionally, for people who are new vegans or vegetarians and are struggling with meat cravings, Beyond Meat and Beyond Burgers are wonderful transition foods. I also think that if you are a vegan or vegetarian and are throwing a BBQ, Beyond Burgers would be perhaps more welcome and satisfying than the traditional veggie burger. However, if you are an omnivore who wants to integrate more plant-based meals for health and environmental reasons, then I think there are way better (and dramatically cheaper) ways to go. You can find online many veggie burger recipes that are cheap, easy to make, and are made with healthy, real ingredients. You can also find at your local library or Amazon some great beginner vegan and vegetarian cookbooks. Even though I am now a very happy omnivore, some of my favorite and most requested meals are vegan and vegetarian. Integrating more plant-based meals does not have to be super expensive or taste weird.
Some photos from my kitchen of Beyond Meat and Beyond Burgers:
Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.” You can follow Jennifer on her Instagram here.
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