For a long time I have been aware of just how poor a trade-off it is to dedicate vast amounts of grain, water and land to raising beef cattle, increasingly scarce resources that could be used to grow crops for human consumption instead. I understand that producing a single pound of beef requires 20 pounds of grain, 9 gallons of water and approximately 10 acres of grazing land (in the Dakotas and Montana).
That being said, its only recently that I began researching constructive ways to downside my beef consumption. Yes, alternative protein sources have always been available: I eat a fair number of dishes that contain beans, but the thought of partaking of tofu makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
The advent of plant-based meatless products certainly caught my attention. Indeed, I’ve sampled a couple of them, only to find that they fall well short of approximating the texture and taste of “the real thing.” I ate these burgers with the same enthusiasm with which I faced a serving of creamed mixed vegetables when I was a kid. (Lord knows how many supper times I was the last one at the table, periodically reminded that I couldn’t leave it until the congealing mass on my plate was dealt with.)
Then along came Burger King’s “Impossible Burger.” The Consumer Reports article “Meat Gets a Makeover” (October 2019) is a good primer on the current state of the meatless burger market. A chart in the article compares ground burger, Amy’s Organic California Veggie Burger, Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger (recently re-badged Impossible Whopper). Such metrics as ingredients, calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, fiber, protein, whether the product is non-GMO and can be classified as USDA Organic are delineated for each product. Then there’s a review of Beyond Burger, Impossible Burger, accompanied by a primer on Lab-Grown Meat and Genetically Modified Organisms. Whew!
The reviews of these products include an explanation of their ingredients; an answer to the question of whether they are healthier than beef and better for the environment; information on where they can be purchased; and an idea of what they cost.
A few days ago I threw culinary caution to the wind and sat down to an Impossible Whopper. I didn’t eat a “naked” patty: besides being clothed in a bun, it featured lettuce, tomato, mayo and ketchup. In other words, everything you’d expect to find in a meat-patty Whopper. And, being prepared on the same grill as its traditional sibling undoubtedly affected the Impossible Whopper’s taste.
The verdict? I was pleasantly surprised by the Impossible Whopper. Even taking into account the factors noted in the previous paragraph, the patty had the appearance, aroma, mouth-feel and taste of the moo-cow version.
Will meatless burgers save the world? Not by themselves. However, the longest journey starts with a single step. I only hope humankind won’t run out of time to take all the steps the planet needs us to take.
Have you sampled meatless products like those I describe here, or have you an opinion of the “meatless meat” concept? I’d be interested to know what you think. Thanks!