The market for meat substitutes is expected to hit $2.5 billion by 2023, according to Euromonitor estimates.
But Mackey, who has been a vegan for more than 20 years, isn’t sold on the health benefits of plant-based meats.
“The who are capturing the imagination of people — and I’m not going to name these brands because I’m afraid I will be associated with the critique of it,” says Mackey, “but some of these that are extremely popular now that are taking the world by storm, if you look at the ingredients, they are super, highly processed foods.”
According to Beyond Meat’s website, ingredients for its plant-based patties include water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, rice protein and other natural flavors, including apple extract and beet juice extract (for color). Ingredients for Impossible Foods burger include water, soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil, potato protein, soy leghemoglobin (a group of protein found in animals and plants) and other natural flavors, according to its website.
“I don’t think eating highly processed foods is healthy. I think people thrive on eating whole foods,” Mackey says. “As for health, I will not endorse that, and that is about as big of criticism that I will do in public.”
And Mackey isn’t alone. Some dietitians aren’t completely sold on the plant-based burger craze either.
“They are not necessarily healthier than beef burgers,” Alissa Rumsey, a registered dietitian, told CNBC in July. “They’re totally fine to eat, but there’s no need to replace your beef burger if you don’t enjoy these,” Rumsey added, pointing out that both plant-based burgers and traditional beef burgers have the same amount of sodium and saturated fat.
On the other hand, Mackey does believe that plant-based meats are a more ethical choice and are better for the environment than regular meat. And research has backed up those claims.
According to a study commissioned by Beyond Meat with the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, a plant-based burger generates 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, requires 45% less energy, has 99% less impact on water scarcity, and 93% less impact on land use than a ¼ pound of traditional U.S. beef.
According to Fast Company, Americans switching from beef to plant-based patties would be equivalent to taking 12 million cars off the road for an entire year.
Even given his reservations about the health of the products, Mackey says there is at least one good dietary argument for plant-based meat: “A lot of people say … that meat is a transition food, meaning it’s a way for to begin to reeducate palates”; it’s a good first step in weaning people off of meat products, he says.
Mackey says most Americans wouldn’t enjoy eating like he does (he has 15 fruits and vegetables a day) because their taste buds are used to a diet that includes a lot of processed foods.
“So the reason why these plant-based meats have taken the world by storm is that they taste very similar to regular meats, whereas if you get a black bean burger with flax seeds and sweet potatoes in it, that’s going to taste great to me,” he says, but not to most people.
Mackey says the good news is that people can retrain their palate to “enjoy pretty much anything” by consistently eating something they typically didn’t like before.
“I love fruits and vegetables,” Mackey says, because he trained his taste buds to love them.
Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It’s request for comment.
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Meatless Mondays are easier than ever thanks to the bevy of look-alike burgers in your supermarket that feature zero meat. Yep, I’m talking about Beyond Meat and similar companies producing plant-based burgers, which are still very much on the rise.
After years on the market and a solid IPO showing, Beyond Burgers are available in more places than ever. You can throw some in your cart on your next Target run or click Buy Now from Amazon Prime Fresh. Plus, Carl’s Jr., Bareburger, and Just Salad are among the many fast-food chains with delish Beyond Meat options on menus.
But if you want a little more info before taking a bite, I’ve got you covered.
- What is the Beyond Burger, exactly?
- What is the Beyond Burger made of?
- So, can you eat it raw?
- Beyond Burger nutrition is pretty close to a beef burger.
- How does it compare to the Impossible Burger?
- Are Beyond Burgers healthy?
- According to Beyond Burger reviews, people are (mostly) into it
- Where to buy the Beyond Burger.
- From our Obsession
- Are Beyond Burgers healthy?
- But wait, what is Beyond Meat actually made out of?
- So which is better: the Beyond Burger or a hamburger?
- Here’s what’s in a Beyond Burger:
- Beyond Meat will soon be on the menu at 11 food chains. Nutritionists say its ‘bleeding’ veggie burger is healthy despite being processed.
- Coconut oil might be the most concerning ingredient
- The Beyond Burger is still a healthy choice, in moderation
- Are Beyond Burgers and Impossible Burgers Healthier Than Meat?
- What Are These Burgers Made of Anyway?
- Are They Healthier Than Meat Burgers?
- The Right Time to Choose a Meatless Burger
- WHAT’S THE BEYOND BURGER™
- I WANT A BEYOND BURGER™! WHERE CAN I GET ONE?
- WHY IS IT IN THE MEAT SECTION?
- WHY ARE THERE TWO DIFFERENT TYPES OF BEYOND BURGERS AVAILABLE IN U.S. GROCERY STORES?
- WHY DID YOU CHANGE THE BEYOND BURGER?
- WHAT ARE THE WHITE MARBLING SPECKS MADE FROM?
- WHY A BURGER FROM PLANTS THAT AIMS TO REPLICATE MEAT?
- WHY DON’T YOU PUT THE BEYOND BURGER IN BOTH THE MEAT AND MEAT ALTERNATIVES SECTION OF THE STORE?
- WHAT KIND OF PROTEIN DO YOU USE?
- HANG ON…IF THIS ISN’T BEEF, WHY ARE THE BURGERS RED?
- WHY DOES THE BEYOND BURGER™ “BLEED”?
- HOW DO YOU REBUILD MEAT WITHOUT GENETICALLY MODIFYING ANYTHING?
- DOES THE BEYOND BURGER™ NEED TO BE REFRIGERATED?
- HOW LONG CAN I KEEP THE BEYOND BURGER™?
- IS THE BEYOND BURGER™ SAFE TO CONSUME IF I HAVE A NUT ALLERGY?
- Is The Beyond Burger Healthy for You?
- How does the Beyond Burger Compare to the Impossible Burger?
- How Do Meatless Burgers Stack Up Nutritionally?
What is the Beyond Burger, exactly?
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A post shared by Beyond Meat (@beyondmeat) on Jun 8, 2018 at 4:46pm PDT
It may look like raw meat in the package and cook up all juicy to “medium-rare” perfection, but this trendy burger is actually totally plant-based. The company says on their website that they wanted to make a burger that “looks, cooks, and tastes” like a beef burger but without the environmental and health problems that can come from red meat. With beets as one of the ingredients, it even changes color as you cook it, to mimic the bloodiness of beef.
What is the Beyond Burger made of?
Beyond Meat, The Beyond Burger, 0.5 lb Beyond Meat amazon.com
What else is in the beef doppelganger? Beyond Meat says it sources all the building blocks of meat (protein, fat, minerals, carbs, and water) from plants.
The brand recently updated their formula, for what they claim to be an even “meatier” flavor and texture than the original product, per a press release. It creates “marbling designed to melt and tenderize like traditional ground beef.”
The protein in this new formulation comes from pea, mung bean, and brown rice—which creates a complete protein, or a protein that has all nine essential amino acids. This is significant, because no plant-based proteins are complete on their own (complete proteins include eggs, cheese, and fish). But this clever combo pairs two incomplete proteins together (rice and beans) to create a complete one.
Cocoa butter, coconut oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil provide the fats. Plus, the cocoa butter and coconut oil add marbling and a satisfying pan sizzle.
The patties also contain minimal amounts of other ingredients, like potato starch, natural flavor, yeast extract, salt, and beet juice extract. You can catch the full list of ingredients here, but note there are no actual vegetables present, unlike other traditional veggie burgers. The patties are also one of the only plant-based burgers made without GMOs, soy, or gluten.
So, can you eat it raw?
There is no raw meat or any ingredients that would be harmful if ingested prior to cooking. “As far as I can tell from looking at the list of ingredients it appears that it would be safe to eat raw,” says Keri Gans, RD. “But, honestly not sure why anyone would want to.”
Still, the company recommends refrigerating the Beyond Burger until you’re ready to cook it. It is perishable.
Beyond Burger nutrition is pretty close to a beef burger.
Per four-ounce uncooked Beyond Burger patty, you’ll get:
- Calories: 270
- Fat: 20 g (6 g sat fat)
- Sodium: 380 mg
- Carbohydrates: 5 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Sugars: 0 grams
- Protein: 20 grams
As for other highlights, the Beyond Burger packs in 30 percent of your daily iron quota and an impressive amount of phosphorus (which is found in your bones and teeth), along with some vitamin C.
Compare that to four ounces of raw beef (80 percent lean):
- Calories: 287
- Fat: 23 g (9 g sat fat)
- Sodium: 75 mg
- Carbohydrates: 0 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Sugars: 0 g
- Protein: 19 g
The downer: Fat and calorie-wise, the Beyond Burger is about on-par with a beef burger, says Dallas-based nutritionist Amy Goodson, RD. And it actually has more sodium.
So if you’re turning to the Beyond Burger to save on fat or cals, you’ll be disappointed, Goodson says. Plus, you can make or break the health of any burger by the friends you pair it with, she says: Choose avocado and mustard for toppings and slap it on a whole-grain bun.
How does it compare to the Impossible Burger?
You may have heard about another popular meat-alternative out there: Impossible Burger. This burger is designed to look, taste, and smell just like a standard beef burger. It even appears to “bleed” thanks to special ingredient soy leghemoglobin which is found naturally in the roots of soybean plants. Other than that, it’s main ingredients are pretty similar to the Beyond Burger: water, soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil, natural flavors.
And its nutrition breakdown is close, as well:
- Calories: 220
- Fat: 13 g (10 g saturated)
- Sodium: 430 mg
- Carbohydrates: 5 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Sugar: Less than 1 g
- Protein: 20 g
Similar to the Beyond Burger, Impossible Foods touts a number of benefits: it supports the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and it’s environmentally friendly. In fact, the company says, compared to cattle production, “the Impossible Burger uses 95 percent less land, 74 percent less water, and creates 87 percent less greenhouse gas emissions.”
So really, the biggest difference is Impossible uses soy, while Beyond does not. And Impossible Burgers contain slightly more saturated fat, which isn’t great.
Are Beyond Burgers healthy?
Beyond Burgers are vegan and plant-based, so that means they’re healthy too, right? Not exactly. While the Beyond Burger may have a good amount of protein (20 grams), it doesn’t exactly have vegetables (pea protein isolate def doesn’t count). So despite being a “veggie burger,” it’s not getting you any closer to your five to seven servings of vegetables a day, says Goodson.
“They are made of highly processed ingredients like protein isolated from plants,” says Alissa Rumsey, RD, founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness. That means while these patties are a meat substitute, they’re not necessarily a healthier meat substitute.
“The Beyond Burger is a plant-based option for someone who is trying to reduce their intake of red meat, or for someone who doesn’t ever eat red meat and wants something close to a burger,” says Gans. But if those aren’t your goals, it probably isn’t worth the switch.
According to Beyond Burger reviews, people are (mostly) into it
Listen, it could be the healthiest thing ever made, but if it tastes like warm cardboard, you’re not eating it. Luckily, 74 percent of the Amazon reviews for Beyond Meat are five stars—pretty good! But 15 percent of people really hated it, awarding only one star. Some highlights and lowlights:
- “I haven’t eaten meat for 15 years and these freaked me out at first but once I cooked them, I thoroughly enjoyed it,” wrote one reviewer, who called it the “best” veggie burger. “Don’t let the look of raw hamburger scare you off.”
- “I love my meat medium rare, more rare than medium, I’m a meat lover, and I could definitely give up beef hamburgers for those,” wrote one reviewer.
- In the “hell naw” camp: “Texture looked like real meat but the smell was so repugnant when I was cooking it that I had to force myself to eat it,” wrote a reviewer. “It smelled and tasted like cat food. …To make matters worse it left a weird aftertaste in my mouth. Yuck.”
Watch Jenna Dewan taste-test a TON of vegan fast food items:
Where to buy the Beyond Burger.
You can actually find the Beyond Burger all over. Since it launched, the number of fast-food chains carrying it has sky-rocketed. It’s on the menu at select TGIFridays, BurgerFi, Hardees, Just Salad, Bareburger, VeggieGrill, Carl’s Jr., A&W, Del Taco, Subway, and Dunkin’ locations and counting.
Carl’s Jr., which was a pioneer in serving up the plant-based patties, has sold more than 4.5 million Beyond Famous Star burgers per the press release. It also added Beyond BBQ Cheeseburger piled high the the signature BBQ sauce, American cheese, and crispy onion rings on a sesame seed bun.
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Beyond Burgers aren’t limited to vegan-friendly fast food restaurants. Bistro Bars at Courtyard Hotels added the Beyond Burger to the menu at properties across North America.
You can also buy it from Amazon Prime Fresh, Target, ShopRite, Giant, Safeway, Sprouts, Publix, Meijer, Harris Teeter, and Kroger to cook it yourself. (Find a complete listing here.) Throw these patties on the grill and see if your friends can tell the difference.
Jessica Migala Jessica Migala is a health writer specializing in general wellness, fitness, nutrition, and skincare, with work published in Women’s Health, Glamour, Health, Men’s Health, and more. Jennifer Nied Jennifer Nied is a contributing writer for Women’s Health with more than 10 years of writing and editing experience, specializing in wellness, adventure travel, and fitness, with work appearing in Budget Travel, American Spa, Women’s Health, and more.
From our Obsession
Future of Food
How to feed everyone, without hurting the planet.
Twice in June, ingredients used by both of America’s most popular plant-based meat companies were called into question.
On June 21, a consumer interest group issued concerns around one of the ingredients in Beyond Meat’s production process. And earlier in June, the World Health Organization said that eating heme—a main ingredient in the Impossible Foods burger—is linked with the formation of carcinogens in the gut.
So far, both companies have weathered the criticism. But increased scrutiny of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods’ meat alternatives poses a big question for all companies offering substitutes to edible animal flesh. How do they truthfully and thoughtfully communicate what they are making—highly processed food—to consumers who are invested in their social missions, yet dubious of food that humans have tinkered with?
For their part, Beyond Meat has explained that the consumer group is wrong about its use of a chemical called hexane. “The pea protein we use is extracted using a water-based process,” said Kelli Wilson of Beyond Meat in a statement. “There are no other solvents and that process at no time involves the use of or exposure to hexane in any way.”
Plant-based meat companies are ultimately making processed foods, but their marketing is more in line with natural, organic offerings. “I was encouraging the plant-based companies to recognize this a couple years ago,” says Jack Bobo, a food technology consultant who works with companies making meat alternatives.
At the time, the companies didn’t seem to consider the fact that groups opposed to genetically-modified and processed foods would eventually come after them. “They often tried to position themselves as being in the organic, gluten-free, natural product space,” Bobo says.
Now, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are increasingly facing questions around how their products are made. The first backlash arguably hit in 2018, when the US Food and Drug Administration expressed concern over a key ingredient in the Impossible Foods burger. The company uses genetically modified yeast to produce the soy leghemoglobin, or “heme,” that gives its burger a meat-like flavor. The agency later gave the company its nod of approval.
An even newer category of meat alternative companies would do well to pay attention. Cell-cultured meat producers like JUST, Aleph Farms, and Memphis Meat make animal protein that doesn’t require the slaughtering of animals. If the plant-based meat concerns catch enough public attention, they risk hurting the perception of all meat alternatives—including the cell-cultured products that haven’t even hit the market. “Anybody can poison the well for everybody,” says Bobo.
Some cell-cultured food companies are tackling their messaging even before products hit shelves. “We spend a lot of time trying to make sure everyone understands what we’re doing,” says Mike Selden, the co-founder of cell-cultured fish company Finless Foods. “There’s just too many people and they don’t all go for the same news sources and channels of communication.” But some messaging has to wait. “No matter what a lot of our communication is going to be right at the endpoint of use, like in the restaurant on the menu, and what it tastes like.”
As Bobo explains, how people use language around their products matter, especially when consumers are shopping and eating in an environment in which there’s suspicion (much of it scientifically unwarranted) around genetically-modified ingredients and the health impacts of processed foods. For these meat alternative companies, the issue boils down to how they truthfully and thoughtfully communicate what they’re making.
So far, though, the plant-based alternatives have demonstrated a winning playbook. Beyond Meat’s stock price has climbed more than 500% since its initial public offering in early May, from an opening price of $25 per share to $154.13 when the US markets opened Friday (June 28).
Beyond Meat’s stock has only hit small road bumps—when Nestlé announced plans to launch a veggie burger in the US this fall, when both Perdue Farms and Tyson Foods touted intentions to sell hybrid plant-meat products later this year, and when a story broke that grocery store chains are still mulling whether plant-based burgers should be sold in the meat aisle instead of the specialty foods section.
From the perspective of cell-cultured meat companies, that early resilience could even make it easier to enter the market. Bruce Friedrich runs The Good Food Institute, a non-profit that represents, supports, and sometimes lobbies on behalf of both plant-based meat companies and startups working on cell-cultured meat.
“The more we can get the conventional meat industry normalizing eating plant-based meats the better,” says Friedrich. “All of that will help make mainstream the idea of cell-based meats as an alternative to meat.”
It seems like just yesterday, ordering a veggie burger in a restaurant meant you were taking a big-time gamble with your tastebuds. If you were lucky, you’d get a crispy, delicious combo of chickpeas, black beans, and veggies. If you weren’t, you might be handed a mushy, tasteless mess. And that’s if you could even find a meatless option on the menu.
Times sure have changed. The Beyond Burger — the ubiquitous plant-based burger that looks and tastes just like a big old hunk of ground beef — is available at upscale restaurants across the country, not to mention fast-food and casual-dining chains such as Carl’s Jr.,and TGIFridays. (Beyond’s competitor, the Impossible Burger, is cutting a similar swath across the nation’s fast food restaurants, and is even available as a Burger King Whopper.) If you’d prefer to eat your cruelty-free burger at home, you can buy a pack of Beyond Burgers at Target. Look for them next to the turkey burgers and ground beef in the meat aisle.
The widespread availability of these meat alternatives is great news for vegetarians, but are Beyond Burgers a healthier choice? And what the heck is actually in them?
Are Beyond Burgers healthy?
“If you’re a vegetarian who occasionally wants to grill out with a juicy burger, these are great,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, author of The Superfood Swap. “But there are a lot of people who regularly eat meat who then go into a fast-food restaurant and think, ‘I want to eat something healthier for myself!’ so they try the plant-based burger, but it’s actually not any healthier for you.”
Blatner points out that when it comes to calories and saturated fat, the Beyond Burger is about equal to a grass-fed beef burger (Beyond’s saturated fat comes from coconut oil and cocoa butter), and it has far more sodium than its animal-based counterpart. Both burgers have a good amount of protein, and the Beyond has an added boost of 2 g of fiber (though Blatner points out that you can make up for that simply by topping your hamburger with lettuce and tomato). The Beyond Burger, however has no cholesterol, compared with beef’s 70 mg. “But saturated fat is more damaging in terms of heart disease than dietary cholesterol is,” points out Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It.
Blatner created a side-by-side comparison of the Beyond Burger vs. a grass-fed beef burger. Here’s how they stack up:
4 oz Beyond Burger →
Total fat: 18 g
Saturated fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 390 mg
Carbohydrate: 3 g
Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 20 g
4 oz Grass-fed beef burger →
Total fat: 14 g
Saturated fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 70 mg
Sodium: 77 mg
Carbohydrate: 0 g
Fiber: 0 g
Protein: 22 g
But wait, what is Beyond Meat actually made out of?
Ethan Brown, the creator of Beyond Meat (the company that makes the Beyond Burger as well as Beyond Sausage, Beyond Beef Crumbles, and Beyond Ground Beef) told an NPR podcaster that his a-ha moment came when he realized that meat is made of five basic elements: amino acids, lipids, a small amount of carbohydrates, trace minerals, and water. And all these elements are present in plants. The trick, he explained, was figuring out how to turn those into a fibrous, meaty substance without using an animal’s digestive system as the processing machine.
The end result is a product that uses vegetable proteins to create the same juicy, chewy, “bloody” meat as animal flesh — without actually harming any animals.
This means that the Beyond Burger is highly processed with a long list of ingredients, says Taub-Dix. In a basic hamburger, all you’ll find is ground beef and perhaps some seasoning and an egg to bind it. A Beyond Burger, however, includes 18 ingredients: water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, rice protein, natural flavors, cocoa butter, mung bean protein, methylcellulose, potato starch, apple extract, salt, potassium chloride, vinegar, lemon juice concentrate, sunflower lecithin, pomegranate fruit powder, and beet juice extract (the beet juice give the burger its meat-like “blood”).
So which is better: the Beyond Burger or a hamburger?
“It all comes down to your eating style,” says Blatner. “If you’re a vegetarian because of animal rights or because it’s better for the planet, and you miss the taste of a burger, this is a great option once in a while, though a bean- or veggie-based burger is going to have less fat. But if you’re just looking for a healthier meal, the Beyond Burger is no healthier than a grass-fed beef burger, turkey burger, or chicken burger. You should find the best meat you can afford — organic if possible — keep to small patties of four ounces or less, and rotate through your favorites.”
It’s also crucial to pay attention to the rest of your plate, says Taub-Dix. “If you make the Beyond Burger at home on a whole-grain bun, with vegetables on the side, that’s very different than ordering it in a restaurant with a big white bun, a soda, and fries,” she says. “It’s not just about the burger, it’s about the company it keeps.”
Marisa Cohen Marisa Cohen is a Contributing Editor in the Hearst Health Newsroom, who has covered health, nutrition, parenting, and the arts for dozens of magazines and web sites over the past two decades.
- Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger uses 22 ingredients in its attempt to perfectly re-create the taste and texture of a beefy burger.
- Ingredients include pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, and coconut oil.
- “If you look at it long enough … you begin to understand that meat is knowable and material,” Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown told Business Insider in May, following the company’s explosive initial public offering.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Beyond Meat reached its $1 billion-plus unicorn valuation in large part because of the success of its Beyond Burger in replicating the taste and feel of chowing down on a hamburger.
However, the plant-based burger uses more than a few veggies to re-create the taste of a classic, bleeding burger.
“If you look at it long enough from different angles and as much as you possibly can, you begin to understand that meat is knowable and material,” Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown told Business Insider following the company’s explosive initial public offering in May.
“It’s essentially these five things. It’s amino acids, lipids, trace minerals, trace vitamins, and water,” Brown continued. “None of those are exclusively the animal. They’re all present in the plant kingdom.”
Read more: Beyond Meat CEO reveals his plan to convince meat eaters to eat vegan substitutes following the company’s explosive IPO
With Beyond Meat, Brown has worked to find these five elements in plants and use them to perfectly replicate the texture, taste, and experience of eating meat.
For the company’s most famous product, the Beyond Burger, this is no easy feat, requiring 22 ingredients.
Here’s what’s in a Beyond Burger:
- Pea protein isolate
- Expeller-pressed canola oil
- Refined coconut oil
The Beyond Burger also contains 2% or less of:
- Cellulose from bamboo
- Potato starch
- Natural flavor
- Yeast extract
- Sunflower oil
- Vegetable glycerin
- Dried yeast
- Gum arabic
- Citrus extract (to protect quality)
- Ascorbic acid (to maintain color)
- Beet juice extract (for color)
- Acetic acid
- Succinic acid
- Modified food starch
- Annatto (for color)
According to Brown, this recipe isn’t set in stone, as Beyond Meat is continuing to innovate and improve products.
Ultimately, Beyond Meat wants to create the “perfect replication” of meat products. Right now, Brown said, the company is about 70% of the way there.
“More so than worrying about competition, I worry about how we make the products that we currently have on the shelf obsolete by improving them,” Brown said.
Ever wonder exactly what’s inside a Beyond Meat (NASDAQ:BYND) burger?
In this video from our YouTube channel, we go inside a Beyond Meat burger patty to explain the company’s financials and the overall market for plant-based protein products.
Narrator: Hey there, I’m Fool.com’s Dylan Lewis. Today we are going inside Beyond Meat and their plant-based burger patties to explain the meat alternatives market, and what the future might hold for Beyond and Impossible Foods.
Okay so earlier this week I went to the supermarket, scooped up a bunch of Beyond Meat product, and now we’re in my kitchen in Washington D.C.
We’re going to show you what’s inside a Beyond Meat burger, but first a little background on the company
Beyond Meat was founded in 2009 by Ethan Brown, and their burgers first became widely available in 2013 — but the flood of news about the company really only started in the lead up to its IPO in 2019.
It’s been one of the hottest stocks in the market — shares soared over 160% on their first day alone.
More on that later — but first let’s talk about Beyond’s products and what’s inside them.
Beyond offers the Beyond Burger, Beyond Sausage, Beyond Beef — perfect for meatballs, and Beyond Beef crumbles — ideal for taco nights.
The company leans on peas, mung bean, and rice to bring protein to the patties, and it’s able to achieve the color and “bleeding” effect you’d expect with meat thanks to beets.
They’re even able to add the “marbling” meat eaters love thanks to coconut oil and cocoa butter.
If you read the company’s site, it’s clear that Beyond is focused on a market Beyond just vegetarians and vegans. They want to be in the grocery baskets of meat eaters.
Looking at attitudes around vegetarianism and veganism, it’s clear why.
Vegetarian and vegan options are far more available at restaurants and supermarkets now than they have been in the past, so seemingly consumer tastes are changing around meat.
What’s interesting is that it isn’t clear that more Americans are identifying as Vegan and Vegetarian.
In a 2018 Gallup poll of over 1,000 adults in the U.S…
- 5% considered themselves vegetarian
- 3% considered themselves vegan
Gallup has conducted this same poll several times, dating back to 1999. At every check-in, the percentages have pretty much held even.
Other polls looking to gauge the percentage of vegetarian Americans generally put the figure around 5% or so as well.
When you factor in population growth, it’s likely there are more Vegans and Vegetarians in the U.S. than in the past, but as a percentage, the preferences haven’t become more popular across the population.
So to make it to the big-time, Beyond and its main competitor Impossible Foods need to make meat-eaters occasionally opt for plant-based alternatives.
This is particularly true because if you look at vegetarian preferences by income bracket, a lot of non-meat eaters are probably priced out of buying Beyond and Impossible products.
In that Gallup survey, the rate of vegetarians is highest among people that make less than $30,000 per year at 9%, nearly twice the rate for the other two income brackets.
People have theorized that the rate is higher in low-income groups because meat is expensive and adds a lot to the weekly grocery bill.
And Beyond Meat products are generally more expensive than their meat counterparts:
At the grocery store near me, their 8 ounce pack of 2 patties costs $5.99. For that, you could buy two pounds of ground beef.
Right now, the production costs are too high to really make their products available to the people most likely to keep meat out of their diet.
So the BIG hope for these businesses is that more people over time will move to vegan and vegetarian diets but also that with alternatives available, frequent meat eaters might occasionally buy plant-based protein.
There are definitely reasons to think that might happen.
Increasing awareness around the impact of global meat production and consumption might be enough to push people that way.
Our global beef consumption has gotten us to the point where cows contribute about as much to near-term climate impacts as cars do.
And cattle ranching is the #1 cause of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, and the main reason why the region is currently dealing with wildfires.
These environmental issues make a strong case for plant-based alternatives, especially when you add in animal-welfare concerns as more and more of our meat comes from factory farms.
All told, the current plant-based protein market is about $12 to $14 billion — or less than half of what U.S. meat giant Tyson Food will make selling beef, pork and chicken in 2019.
But people have huge expectations for where it could go.
Analysts at Barclays project that the market for plant-based alternatives could reach $140 billion over the next decade — or growing at an annual growth rate of 25% — giving it roughly 10% share of the meat industry.
These kinds of estimates — plus the fact that Beyond is the only pure play way to invest in meat alternatives right now — is what’s driving the ridiculous demand for shares of Beyond Meat, and why folks are eagerly waiting for Impossible Foods to IPO.
All that hype has pushed the valuation of these companies so far beyond their actual business results.
Over the last twelve months, Beyond Meat sold $165 million in meat alternatives. As of taping, the company is worth about $9 billion. So Beyond shares are trading at nearly 55 times trailing sales, and their valuation is about half of the industry that they currently own roughly 1% of.
Put another way — this is the meat alternatives market, and this is how much Beyond Meat is currently worth, but this is how much of the market they actually do in sales.
The business has been consistently doubling revenue each year, but those kinds of nosebleed valuations are usually reserved for software companies that have businesses that can scale well and eventually generate huge profit margins in the 70-80% range. Beyond’s gross margin is only around 28% right now.
To go back to our raw meat assistant here — If this is $1 in Beyond Meat sales, this is how much is left over after you factor in the costs of actually creating the product.
But there are more expenses to account for — the company has an R&D budget, a sales team, marketing campaigns, and all the things that go with running a business.
All told, Beyond Meat is losing money when you get to the company’s bottom line. That’s not rare for a young company, but it’s important to understand.
Let’s bring it all home while I throw these burgers on the grill.
The bet investors are making right now is that Beyond and Impossible will become the name brands of meat alternatives, and gobble up growth along the way.
Beyond and Impossible have both partnered with major chains to bring their products onto menus across the country — this fall Subway is testing Beyond Meatballs in its marinara sub sandwich, and Dunkin Donuts offers breakfast sandwiches with Beyond sausage patties. Impossible even partnered up with Burger King to create the Impossible Whopper.
All of these agreements are huge stamps of approval, and both companies need them in order to cement themselves as the brand names.
Even over the past few months, major food players like Tyson, Nestle, and Hormel have announced that they are launching or developing plant-based products.
As more companies enter the space, price will become much more of a factor for consumers.
In my trip to Giant to pick this stuff up, I noticed another plant-based meat product, this one from Pure Farmland, a company owned by Smithfield Foods — for the same retail price as 8 oz of Beyond Meat, they’re offering 16 oz of their product.
If Beyond can become the Kleenex of meat-alternatives, consumers might be willing to pay up. But if not it could spell trouble for the businesses.
For now the frenzy of the soaring stock price and the series of nationwide partnerships has worked — I am a hardcore meat eater and regularly buy a couple beyond patties for my backyard cookouts.
My producer, Austin Morgan is not yet a convert. We’ll see how he feels after finally biting into one….
Have you had an Impossible or Beyond burger? We want to know what you think, let us know down in the comments section, and if you haven’t already give us a thumbs up below and subscribe to get more stuff from The Motley Fool.
- Beyond Meat’s “bleeding” veggie burger has become a popular alternative to traditional meat patties at fast-food restaurants. The patty is now on menus at TGI Fridays, Carl’s Jr., and A&W.
- The company’s plant-based “chicken” is also being sold at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Atlanta.
- We asked four nutritionists to evaluate the 22 ingredients in a Beyond Meat patty, which include coconut oil, an item with more saturated fat than butter or lard.
- Most of them classified the burger as a “sometimes” food, meaning it can be healthy to eat on occasion as a substitute for real beef.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Beyond Meat’s plant-based products, which mimic the taste, look, and feel of real meat, are taking the fast-food industry by storm.
The company’s signature “bleeding” veggie burger is now on menus at 9 food chains, including TGI Fridays, Carl’s Jr., and A&W. Starting Tuesday, customers can also order Beyond’s nuggets and wings at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Atlanta. Subway also plans to sell a Beyond Meat meatball sub starting next month.
The Beyond Burger is often billed as a healthier and more environmentally friendly alternative to beef, but many consumers have been skeptical about its processed nature.
Earlier this month, a group called the Center for Consumer Freedom — which is funded by some food companies and restaurants — ran a series of full-page ads in the New York Post and Wall Street Journal highlighting the chemical additives in alternative meat products. The ads used the slogan “Fake Meat, Real Chemicals” and compared the ingredients in “real” and “fake” bacon.
We asked four nutritionists to weigh in on this debate by evaluating the 22 ingredients in a Beyond Meat patty. Most of them classified the burger as a “sometimes” item, meaning it can be healthy to eat on occasion as a substitute for real beef.
Read more: How the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger actually compare when it comes to calories, sodium, and more
Coconut oil might be the most concerning ingredient
Beyond Burgers aren’t necessarily less fatty or caloric than their real-meat counterparts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad for you.
For the most part, the Beyond Burger’s ingredients are relatively nutritious.
Two nutritionists praised the fact that the burger contains 2 grams of fiber, or 8% of the recommended daily value. A few also said the burger was a good source of protein, since it has the same protein content of a traditional 3-ounce beef patty (around 20 grams).
Compared to its competitor, the Impossible Burger, nutritionists said the Beyond Burger had the healthier protein source.
A 4-ounce Beyond Meat patty contains 250 calories. Leanna Garfield/Business Insider
“In my opinion, Beyond and Impossible are very different,” said Cynthia Sass, a New York-based performance nutritionist. “Impossible’s main protein source is soy, one of the ‘big 8’ most common allergens.”
The Beyond Burger, on the other hand, uses pea protein isolate, which most people find easily digestible. The ingredient can, however, cause increased gastrointestinal discomfort if people aren’t used to it, said Vandana Sheth, a registered dietitian nutritionist.
One element that had nutritionists divided was the burger’s saturated fat content (6 grams). Two nutritionists saw the content as low compared to similar veggie burgers on the market, but Amy Gorin, a registered dietitian nutritionist, had one reservation.
“I don’t love that the patties are made with coconut oil,” she said. “This is a source of saturated fat, and you’ll see that one burger contains 30% of the daily value.” Because coconut oil contains more saturated fat than butter or lard, many nutritionists recommend using it sparingly.
The Beyond Burger is still a healthy choice, in moderation
While all four nutritionists recognized the Beyond Burger as a processed food, that doesn’t qualify it as “junk food.” Lots of foods we might consider healthy, like Greek yogurt, cheese, or almond butter, are also processed.
The Beyond Burger sold at TGI Friday’s. TGI Fridays
Pamela Bonney, a registered dietitian nutritionist, said the Beyond Burger is “highly processed,” which typically means a product has been heavily altered and contains additives. Highly processed foods are often “ready-to-eat” items like candy, potato chips, diet soda, or microwavable meals.
Overall, Sass said, we should eat less of these processed foods and substitute whole ingredients instead. Research from the National Institutes of Health suggests that processed foods cause people to consume an extra 500 calories a day and ultimately gain more weight.
But compared to many other “highly processed” foods, Bonney said, the Beyond Burger uses particularly high-quality ingredients like mung bean protein, apple extract, and pomegranate fruit powder.
When it comes to choosing between a Beyond Burger and a real meat patty, the nutritionists agreed that the veggie burger was the healthier choice.
“I do believe that plant options that displace red meat are a step in the right direction,” Sass said, adding that red meat is tied to some of our “most prevalent chronic diseases” like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Processed meats like sausage, bacon, and hot dogs could also increase the risk of stomach and bowel cancers.
What’s more, red meat plays a role in the climate crisis, which Sass called “a major public health risk.” The World Resources Institute estimates that cutting the world’s beef consumption by 70% could reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by around 35%.
“The truth is that … the protein source does matter, both for human health and the health of the planet,” Sass said.
That means Beyond Burgers can be part of a healthy diet, but shouldn’t be your protein source for every meal.
Editor’s note: In the original article, Michael Rogers intended to say “early evolutionary ancestors” instead of Neanderthals when speaking about the agricultural revolution. As well, he intended to say there’s no anthropological evidence of Type 2 diabetes, not Type 1. All changes have been made in his quotes.
Beyond Meat burgers have defied expectations of carnivores and herbivores alike. The patty has duped meat-eaters and brought variety to the sometimes protein-scarce diets of vegetarians and vegans. It’s now even launched in Tim Hortons — Canada’s quintessential coffee chain — after a long promotional run in A&W restaurants.
As this meat alternative seemingly makes its way into our everyday lives — it’s also available for purchase in grocery stores — some health experts question whether plant-based burgers are actually good for us.
While some people are switching to Beyond Meat for environmental and ethical reasons, dietitians like Amanda Lapidus and Abby Langer say there is cause for worry about the “health halo” being placed on these meat alternatives.
“The Beyond Meat burger is technically a processed food. We know that diets higher in processed foods are linked to the development of disease,” Lapidus said.
When people eat more processed foods, they are likely to consume more calories and gain weight, a study by the National Institutes of Health found. With added weight gain can come such complications as kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease.
Just because a product is plant-based doesn’t mean it’s automatically healthy. “French fries are plant-based,” Langer pointed out.
In fact, Aroma’s vegan burger (made with a Beyond Meat patty) and salad will set you back 990 calories, 63.9 grams of fat and 1,530 milligrams of sodium.
Beyond Meat, which positions itself as a food product that can directly compete with meat in taste, texture and nutrition, has found relative mainstream success in Canada, and other producers have started making their own versions of plant-based proteins. Quebec-based Vegeat, Maple Leaf Foods and President’s Choice have all launched a pea protein burger.
Michael Rogers, a food scientist at the University of Guelph, worries the proliferation of Beyond Meat is only adding to a growing food crisis, where in Canada, 50 per cent of people’s calories come from ultra-processed foods. Beyond Meat
Langer said plant-based burgers create more variety for those seeking meat alternatives; instead of relying on tofu and legumes, vegetarians and vegans can consume Beyond Meat as an occasional treat. “Would I eat it every day? No. Would I eat a burger every day? No, I wouldn’t. This is the same thing.”
Lapidus said her concerns about Beyond Meat vary from person to person. If, for example, someone who isn’t a regular A&W customer or fast-food consumer starts to regularly seek out the plant-based burger, that’s not a healthy option. If it’s the opposite, where it’s regular fast-food eaters swapping their beef burger for a Beyond Burger, it might not be too bad.
It also depends on someone’s personal health history, she said. “If you’re somebody who’s at risk for colorectal cancer, eating more red meat is going to further increase your risk for developing colorectal cancer.”
For someone who has hypertension, a Beyond Meat burger at A&W — which has more than half your daily requirement of sodium (1,110 mg) — is not a good option. Conversely, A&W’s teen burger, which has bacon, has 910 mg of sodium.
A 113-gram Beyond Meat patty has 250 calories, 18 grams of fat, 390 milligrams of sodium and 20 grams of protein. Health Canada says 113 grams of lean ground beef contain 292 calories, 16.5 grams of fat, 105 milligrams of sodium and 33 grams of protein. For comparison, 113 grams of Yves’ Veggie burger (which is typically 75 grams) contains 165 calories, nine grams of fat, 602.4 milligrams of sodium and 18 grams of protein.
These consumers are blindly purchasing foods that they think are healthy because they associate it with a plant
Michael Rogers, a food scientist at the University of Guelph, worries the proliferation of Beyond Meat is only adding to a growing food crisis, where in Canada, 50 per cent of people’s calories come from ultra-processed foods.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation defines ultra-processed foods as those that “go through multiple processes (extrusion, moulding, milling, etc.), contain many added ingredients and are highly manipulated.” This includes hot dogs, chicken nuggets, sweetened breakfast cereals, ice cream and chocolate.
“For the last million years, we’ve evolved with a very specific diet that’s been based on whole foods,” Rogers said. “There hasn’t been a change in our diets this drastic in all of human evolution with the exception of one event in human history: when early evolutionary ancestors ventured from forests into pastoral land and started … agricultural practices,” more than 12,000 years ago.
Since the Industrial Revolution, Rogers explained, companies have been working to make food more shelf-stable, palatable and functional by way of extracting, purifying and manipulating proteins, carbohydrates and fats, which are then added to such formulated foods as the Beyond burger.
When an animal or plant cell is broken down, the original, biological structures of those cells are transformed and no longer respond the same way in our bodies.
Beyond Meat products are made from yellow pea protein isolates, where the yellow pea itself is broken down through various processes. Other ingredients such as refined coconut oil and natural flavours are added to make a cohesive patty that tastes good.
“Where this gets troublesome is consumers now see that this vegan burger has pea protein … and they associate this vegetarian product, which is formulated from all these refined ingredients, and they think it’s the same as eating a plate full of peas,” Rogers said.
It’s not. When we consume food products that have been refined, the structures that exist to slow down digestion are removed. As a result, our bodies consume the energy of the food much quicker and easier, spiking our insulin, which can lead to the onset of diabetes.
Think of brown rice, Rogers said. When the outer layer — the bran — is polished to make white rice, our bodies digest the carbohydrates much quicker and it transforms from a complex carbohydrate to a simple one.
Aroma’s Power Burger. Aroma Espresso Bar/Twitter
“We’ve created a whole new form of malnutrition that, from an evolutionary perspective, didn’t exist until a hundred years ago. There is no anthropological evidence to suggest Type 2 diabetes. There’s no anthropological evidence that suggests that diseases like metabolic syndrome even existed a hundred years ago. And that is a direct consequence of the ultra-processing of our foods,” he said.
“These consumers are blindly purchasing foods that they think are healthy because they associate it with a plant. But once that food has been processed, it doesn’t matter if it came from a plant, or a piece of cardboard — whatever — the whole food has gone.”
Despite all the warnings, Lapidus, Langer and Rogers all agreed that having processed food in your diet isn’t entirely bad — so long as it’s in moderation.
So go ahead and delight in a plant-based burger if your heart desires, but as Langer said, “use common sense.”
Are Beyond Burgers and Impossible Burgers Healthier Than Meat?
If you have yet to try a meatless burger, such as the Impossible Burger or the Beyond Burger, just wait: They’re skyrocketing in popularity and can be spotted on menus around the country, from sit-down restaurants to fast-food spots.
Share prices for Beyond Meat, the company behind the Beyond Burger, increased 600 percent six weeks after the company’s initial public offering in spring 2019, according to Bloomberg. And while Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are the two best-known brands, others like Tyson Foods, Nestlé Sweet Earth, Before the Butcher, Moving Mountains, and Hormel Foods are trying to get a piece of the meat-free market, too, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.
These aren’t traditional veggie burgers — they were designed to emulate meat’s texture, appearance, and taste and, as a result, have gotten the seal of approval from many meat eaters. “While most of these burgers are vegan, they are likely more appealing to omnivores who are looking for ways to cut back on their intake of animal products while still enjoying a similar texture and taste,” says Kelli McGrane, RD, a nutritionist with the food-tracking app Lose It! and based in Denver.
Some people prefer these burgers because they’re better for the environment. “No doubt, reducing our intake of red meat is a choice we should all consider to lessen our carbon footprint and embrace sustainability goals since red meat production has significant environmental impacts,” says Allison J. Stowell, RD, who is with Guiding Stars, a company that labels food as nutritious, and is based in Bethel, Connecticut.
Other folks are in it for the health benefits that come with reducing the amount of red meat in the diet. But are these burgers actually healthier?
RELATED: 10 of the Best Plant-Based Sources of Protein
What Are These Burgers Made of Anyway?
The two most popular meatless burgers are the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger, both of which are vegan, meaning they’re entirely plant based and made without any animal products. The Beyond Burger’s 20 grams (g) of protein come from peas, mung beans, and rice, while the Impossible Burger gets its 19 g of protein from soy and potato proteins.
RELATED: 10 Unhealthy Things Lurking in Your Burger
Are They Healthier Than Meat Burgers?
Nutritionally speaking, one of the problems with beef is it’s high in saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels and put you at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke when eaten in excess, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Research has also linked eating red meat to a higher risk for obesity. A past study found people who consumed high amounts of meat were about 27 percent more likely to be obese than individuals who ate less meat.
That’s why most obesity researchers, cardiologists, and registered dietitians alike are proponents of reducing your intake of red meat. But these burgers may not be the no-brainer they appear to be because they still have significant amounts of saturated fat — 6 g in the Beyond Burger and 8 g in the Impossible Burger. By comparison, a burger made with 90 percent lean beef has about 4.5 g of saturated fat and a burger made with higher-fat beef (80 percent lean beef) has 9 g of saturated fat, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). “If reducing your intake of saturated fat is a goal, then choosing one of these burgers over a 90 percent lean beef burger is not a beneficial choice,” Stowell says. Stowell says a 94 percent lean turkey burger or a traditional veggie burger would be better since they’re lower in saturated fat. She notes, though, that veggie burgers usually have fewer calories and fewer grams of protein, so they may not keep you full for very long.
RELATED: Cutting Calories May Offer Health Benefits, Even Without Weight Loss
Another problem is these burgers qualify as processed foods, McGrane says. Experts recommend limiting processed foods because they generally have many less-than-healthy ingredients added to them, such as preservatives, sweeteners, and oils, according to the AHA. A diet rich in processed foods generally means you’re getting too much sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats.
According to ImpossibleFoods.com and BeyondMeat.com, the following ingredients are in these popular meat alternatives:
Impossible Burger Ingredients
- Soy protein concentrate
- Coconut oil
- Sunflower oil
- Natural flavors
- Potato protein
- Yeast extract
- Cultured dextrose
- Food starch modified
- Soy leghemoglobin
- Soy protein isolate
- Mixed tocopherols (Vitamin E)
- Zinc gluconate
- Thiamine hydrochloride (Vitamin B1)
- Sodium ascorbate (Vitamin C)
- Pyridoxine hydrochloride (Vitamin B6)
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
- Vitamin B12
Beyond Burger Ingredients
- Pea protein isolate
- Expeller-pressed canola oil
- Refined coconut oil
- Rice protein
- Natural flavors
- Cocoa butter
- Mung bean protein
- Potato starch
- Apple extract
- Potassium chloride
- Lemon juice concentrate
- Sunflower lecithin
- Pomegranate fruit powder
- Beet juice extract
RELATED: How to Follow a Raw Vegan Diet
Stowell adds that a glaring issue with these burgers is their sodium because, as the AHAs points out, most Americans overconsume sodium. These burgers (and grocery store veggie burgers, too) have more sodium than a traditional beef or turkey burger, with 390 milligrams (mg) in the Beyond Burger and 370 mg in the Impossible Burger (about 16 percent of your daily value). Sodium-laden toppings such as ketchup and pickles can bring that count even higher. “Once you account for the sodium in the bun and condiments, these burgers can quickly add up to 600 mg or more of sodium per serving,” McGrane says. It isn’t a major issue if you otherwise limit processed foods, but consuming too much sodium over time can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
So should these meatless burgers become a staple in your diet? “As the nutritional facts of meat alternative burgers make clear, these options may not be the best choice despite the ‘health halo’ that surrounds them,” Stowell says.
RELATED: Processed Foods Linked to Shorter Life Span, Study Finds
The Right Time to Choose a Meatless Burger
That said, these meat-free options can come in handy in situations when you’re not able to cook in your own kitchen, such as when you find yourself in a drive-through. Products from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are currently served at White Castle, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Qdoba, and at some Little Caesar locations, according to Vox.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, these options might be your best bet because fast-food restaurants are often lacking in the meat-free department, McGrane says. But if you’re not opposed to meat, Stowell suggests ordering a garden salad with grilled chicken and a low-sodium, low-calorie dressing or a grilled chicken sandwich instead because grilled chicken is among the leaner protein options when eating meat.
Plant-based burgers are not a novel concept. But new products designed to taste like meat are now being marketed to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger are two such options. Eating these burgers is touted as a strategy to save the earth, casting meat as a prehistoric concept. Both brands also offer up their products as nutritious alternatives to animal protein.
But how do they stack up? It turns out the answer may depend on whether your priorities lie with your personal health or the health of the planet.
The good news: Meatless burgers are a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals
The protein content of these newer plant-based burgers has been created to compete with beef and poultry gram for gram. Both the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger have comparable amounts, the former deriving protein mainly from soy and the later from peas and mung beans.
Impossible Burger also adds vitamins and minerals found in animal proteins — like vitamin B12 and zinc — in amounts equal to (and in some cases, greater than) both red meat and poultry. This is a plus for vegetarians, because these nutrients are typically harder to come by when relying solely on foods from the plant kingdom. Vitamin B12, for instance, is found primarily in animal sources, and strict vegetarians and vegans must get their intake from fortified sources. What’s more, plant compounds such as phytic acid bind to minerals, which can increase requirements of zinc by 50% and may necessitate consuming about two times as much iron. For those who eat at least some animal protein, the vitamin and mineral fortification is less of a selling point.
This doesn’t mean a plant-focused diet is lacking in nutrients. Beans, for instance, are a good source of both zinc and iron. They are also an important protein resource. Black bean burgers are never going to be mistaken for hamburgers, but they are typically a solid choice when it comes to health.
The bad news: Meatless burgers are heavily processed and high in saturated fat
The same can’t necessarily be said of the aforementioned beef substitutes, which have been created to mimic what many people love about a burger — the red juicy center and meaty taste. Along with the ambition to replicate hamburgers comes a comparable amount of saturated fat. Since diets higher in saturated fat are associated with increased rates of both heart disease and premature death, they may not be the type to opt for if your ambitions are purely health-related. They are also a significant source of sodium, particularly for those on salt-restricted diets.
The following chart shows how the newer, meatless burgers stack up nutritionally against beef burgers, turkey burgers, and black bean burgers.
Even though legumes are sourced for protein in the branded meatless options, their health benefits are somewhat blunted by the high degree of processing involved. For instance, moderate amounts of whole soy foods, like edamame (soybeans), have been linked to reduced rates of cancer. This protection is often attributed to isoflavones, a subgroup of plant compounds called flavonoids thought to provide health benefits. Unfortunately, in the case of the Impossible Burger, one serving contains less than 8% of the isoflavones found in one serving of whole soy foods (one serving is roughly a quarter of a block of tofu or 1 cup of soymilk).
Poultry-based burger alternatives, such as turkey burgers, also do not contain significant amounts of protective plant compounds. On the other hand, they offer less saturated fat.
If a lower risk of diseases like cancer and heart disease is your ultimate goal, aim for the kind of veggie burgers that showcase their beans, grains, and seeds front and center. Choose legume-based varieties studded with seeds and whole grains, like brown rice and quinoa.
If you love the taste of a burger, but find the sustainability of raising cattle hard to stomach, beefless alternatives that mimic the real thing are worth a try. Producing the newer, plant-based burgers requires considerably less water and generates substantially less greenhouse gas emissions compared with traditional beef burgers. This is certainly an important consideration for the well-being of our planet, but they may not be the best option for the health of our bodies.
WHAT’S THE BEYOND BURGER™
The Beyond Burger is the world’s first plant-based burger that looks, cooks, and satisfies like beef. It has all the juicy, meaty deliciousness of a traditional burger, but comes with the upsides of a plant-based meal. The Beyond Burger packs 20g of plant-based protein and has no GMOs, soy, or gluten.
I WANT A BEYOND BURGER™! WHERE CAN I GET ONE?
The Beyond Burger is available at more than 35,000 restaurants, grocery stores, universities, hotels, stadiums, and BEYOND. Use our locator to find the closest spot to you!
WHY IS IT IN THE MEAT SECTION?
Great question. Part of our Future of Protein vision is to re-imagine the meat section as the Protein Section of the store. In this way, we can help introduce plant-based options to people where they are already purchasing other forms of protein.
WHY ARE THERE TWO DIFFERENT TYPES OF BEYOND BURGERS AVAILABLE IN U.S. GROCERY STORES?
We’re excited to announce our new Beyond Burger, featuring a meatier taste and texture with marbling that melts and tenderizes like beef. The new, meatier Beyond Burger will start rolling into stores in June but it could take a few weeks to reach every store shelf. You can look for the “NOW EVEN MEATIER WITH MARBLING” red tab on the front of package to know it has arrived. The new, meatier Beyond Burger will be available at any grocery store currently selling the Beyond Burger. Be sure to check out our locator to find a store near you. We appreciate your patience as we roll out this exciting new innovation nationwide.
WHY DID YOU CHANGE THE BEYOND BURGER?
In service of our rapid and relentless approach to innovation, we are constantly adjusting and updating our products as we work to make them completely indistinguishable from their animal-protein equivalents. This is our next step forward in perfectly building meat directly from plants.
The new, meatier Beyond Burger features a combination of pea, mung bean, and rice to deliver a complete protein, meatier taste and texture that mimics the chew and juiciness of beef, a more neutral flavor and aroma profile that’s closer to beef, and a simplified ingredient list. As always, it’s made without GMOs, soy, or gluten.
WHAT ARE THE WHITE MARBLING SPECKS MADE FROM?
The white specks are made from coconut oil and cocoa butter. These plant-based fats provide melty, mouthwatering marbling to the Beyond Burger, creating a juicy texture that’s closer to ground beef than ever before.
WHY A BURGER FROM PLANTS THAT AIMS TO REPLICATE MEAT?
Our belief is that the best way to get people to eat less meat is by giving them what they love–in this case, a juicy delicious burger – without so many of the health, sustainability, and animal welfare downsides of a traditional animal-based burger.
WHY DON’T YOU PUT THE BEYOND BURGER IN BOTH THE MEAT AND MEAT ALTERNATIVES SECTION OF THE STORE?
Dual-placement is a possibility but ultimately it’s up to each retailer. Our goal of placing The Beyond Burger™ in, at a minimum, the meat section of the store is so we can help introduce plant-based options to people where they are already purchasing other forms of protein.
WHAT KIND OF PROTEIN DO YOU USE?
Peas, mung bean, and rice provide a complete protein. The Beyond Burger is made without GMOs, soy, or gluten.
HANG ON…IF THIS ISN’T BEEF, WHY ARE THE BURGERS RED?
Well, we use beets to do that! The Beyond Burger changes color as you cook it, just like animal protein.
WHY DOES THE BEYOND BURGER™ “BLEED”?
While we didn’t design the Beyond Burger to “bleed” per se, the beets we use to give the patty a red-meat appearance have led some in the media to remark that the burger “bleeds.”
HOW DO YOU REBUILD MEAT WITHOUT GENETICALLY MODIFYING ANYTHING?
This question gets back to the company’s basic thesis that meat’s core parts – amino acids, lipids, trace minerals, vitamins, and water – don’t have exclusive residence in the animal kingdom. We’re not inventing new materials, we’re finding plant-based equivalents and assembling them in the architecture of meat. And the way we do that assembly is similar to the simple process used to make pasta – we mix our plant-based ingredients, compress the mixture, and then shape it into the final product (in our case, using a patty former).
DOES THE BEYOND BURGER™ NEED TO BE REFRIGERATED?
Yes. Just like meat, you should keep the Beyond Burger at refrigerated temperature until you cook it on the stovetop, griddle, or grill.
HOW LONG CAN I KEEP THE BEYOND BURGER™?
Be sure to check the “use-by date” marked on the front of your package. Once you’ve opened the package, however, the burgers should be cooked and eaten within 3 days.
IS THE BEYOND BURGER™ SAFE TO CONSUME IF I HAVE A NUT ALLERGY?
Peas are legumes. People with severe allergies to legumes like peanuts should be cautious when introducing pea protein into their diet because of the possibility of a pea allergy. Our products do not contain peanuts or tree nuts.
Is The Beyond Burger Healthy for You?
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a new meat alternative called the Impossible Burger and how it compares with real beef. Almost immediately, I started getting emails from listeners wanting to know how the Impossible Burger compared with another meatless burger called the Beyond Burger. So today, part two of what has become a series on meatless burgers that are taking veggie burgers to a much meatier level.
Kate wrote: “I tried the Beyond Burger once at a restaurant and thought it tasted delicious. I like the idea of having plant-based alternatives for things like burgers but I’m wary of the tendency to assume that just because something is vegan or vegetarian, it’s healthier (primarily because of your show). As a result, I don’t buy many processed vegan foods, but maybe this one is worth it?”
How does the Beyond Burger Compare to the Impossible Burger?
Like the Impossible Burger, the Beyond Burger is a veggie burger that goes out of its way to mimic the look, taste, and texture of real ground beef. If you’re the kind of vegan that finds the thought of eating meat revolting, then neither of these products is likely to appeal to you. But if, like Kate, you enjoy eating the real thing but like the idea of cutting down on your consumption, either one of these might fit the bill.
Like the Impossible Burger, the Beyond Burger looks like raw ground beef when you buy it. After cooking, it is still pink in the center. In the case of the Impossible Burger, the color comes from heme, a form of iron that is normally only found in animals. The color in the Beyond Burger, on the other hand, is supplied by beet extract. But the heme iron in the Impossible Burger imparts more than just color. Heme also contributes a characteristic metallic flavor that we associate primarily with red meat.
How Do Meatless Burgers Stack Up Nutritionally?
Let me start by saying that the nutritional differences between these two burgers are not huge. Both are under 300 calories for a 4-ounce burger. But there are a few differences worth mentioning.
Although the Beyond Burger is slightly higher in fat, it is much lower in saturated fat because it uses both canola and coconut oil, while the Impossible Burger uses only coconut oil. The Beyond Burger is also significantly lower in sodium and offers a small amount of fiber.
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