You’ve likely heard of Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger — veggie patties that look, taste and, some think, even “bleed” red juices like the meat they’re mimicking. We thought April Fools’ Day would a good time to talk about the pros and cons of this “meat” that tries to fool you.
We also wanted to know why people who want to adhere to a vegetable-based diet would even look for products that mimic meat. Why eat burgers that ooze red juices from the beets they’re made from instead of the beets themselves? I love most vegetables as they are, so looking for ways to enjoy them that hides their identity would have been low on my list.
We went to JL Fields, vegan diet champion, cookbook author, vegan lifestyle coach and vegan restaurant reviewer for The Gazette for answers and rationales.
“Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are not targeting vegans,” Fields said. “They are targeting meat eaters, so they’ve created texture and flavor to appeal to them. A processed vegan burger is one way to introduce meat eaters to another way of eating vegetables.”
I hadn’t looked at this that way. But I also thought people interested in a plant-based, whole-foods diet were going for “clean eating.” Overly processed fake meats are anything but that.
“I’m vegan for ethical reasons,” explained Fields. “It’s good for the animals, it’s good for the planet. Bonus: I experience pretty good health as a result of eating no cholesterol. But everyone likes to have a treat every now and then. Oreos are vegan, and I have one every now and then. And Beyond Burger and Impossible Foods ‘meat’ are great ways to satisfy that craving for a taste of familiar food I grew up with, because many vegans didn’t give up meat because they didn’t like it. They gave it up to reduce harm.”
From an economical point of view, these veggie numbers are pretty expensive — much more costly than plain-ole vegetables. The package I bought at Whole Foods Market cost $5.99 for two quarter-pound patties, which I thought was pretty pricey.
“Yes, and from what I understand both Beyond and Impossible are trying to get the price down equal to, or under, animal meat,” she said. “But, for someone like me, it’s not a daily food, because beans, grains and veggies are my jam. So, it’s worth it for a splurge treat.”
What about the salt content? Processing inserts a lot of sodium and saturated fat into the burgers. Again, Fields defended the products.
“They aren’t health food,” she said. “They are tasty vegan food. As most people practice moderation, trying to eat wholesome foods as much as possible, it’s pretty fun to go to a restaurant and order a burger that looks like your dining mate’s, but it’s vegan.”
Bottom line, wouldn’t it be just as good, more economical and animal friendly to make your own veggie burgers?
“Sure, you could make a veggie burger at home,” she said. “You could also make hummus at home, but I’ll bet a lot of people buy it — because it’s convenient. And as far as veggie burgers go, here’s the thing. A burger made of veggies and grains is just that: a plant burger. What these companies have done is gotten all wizard-like and created a texture, taste and mouthfeel that nails the meat experience. Perfect for those who want to reduce their carbon footprint or do less harm to animals, and awesome for those of us who haven’t eaten meat in nearly 20 years but still enjoy the experience vegan-style.”
And, no fooling, Fields has a yummy veggie burger recipe — “with an emphasis on veggie” — that she has shared.
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