Future of Protein
Originally written January 25, 2019.
The Beyond Meat burger is popping up everywhere, including my favourite pub. Beyond Meat claims their plant-based patty “looks, cooks, and satisfies like beef.” It’s also supposed to be good for human health and the environment. Is it too good to be true? I used the internet and my tastebuds to answer this question.
The Beyond Meat burgers consistency is spot on. The taste is a bit nutty, similar to beef but not quite there. It’s close enough that if you didn’t know you had a pea protein sandwich on your plate you might think there was a secret sauce or spice changing the taste of your beef. Looking at the BYMT burger you wouldn’t know it wasn’t real beef. It looks more like a frozen patty than a housemade one, and is thinner than the hearty burgers you might expect at a pub. It could be perfect for someone who likes sensibly sized meals but would underperform for someone who likes to gorge themselves on a Friday night. The BYMT burger is slightly pink in the centre, thanks to beet extract. It supposedly “bleeds like a beef burger”. This is true if you like your burgers cooked medium-well, but not for carnivores like me who like their meat rare.
Health-wise the only proof Beyond Meat provides is that plant based proteins increase the risk of cancer by only 16% while animal proteins increase the risk of heart disease by a whopping 21%. According to some quick research BYMT burgers contain 5 times the sodium of beef burgers, have less fibre, vitamins and minerals than whole veggies, and replace heaps of animal fat with heaps of plant fat (coconut and canola oil). On a positive note plant burgers don’t contain cholesterol or antibiotics. Then again neither do other plant based meals. We can always choose chickpeas and cauliflower over burgers… maybe.
Beyond Meat’s environmental impact seems more promising. They claim that it takes 99% less water, 93% less land, 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, and 46% less energy to make a BYMT burger compared to a beef burger. Even the new Canada Food Guide is urging us to favour plant proteins to save the planet. Beyond Meat may not be the healthiest thing to have everyday but it has this advantage: we can have our planet and eat burgers, too.