Is Whole Foods' Beyond Burger the Future of Fake Meat?
I'm not going to beat around the bush: a lot of veggie burgers taste like soy-filled hockey pucks not fit for human consumption. And I should know, because I ate a ton of veggie burgers growing up. I subsisted on them in college. And also post-college. And I had one for lunch this week. So basically, all my life.
I've also had plenty of real burgers, mostly to make up for the fact that I didn't eat them earlier in life when I was mostly a vegetarian. And yet I've never expected a veggie burger to taste like a real burger in my lifetime.
What the hell is a Beyond Burger?
A Beyond Burger is a 100% vegan burger primarily made from pea protein isolate, canola oil, and coconut oil. It's different from the Beast Burger you might have seen in the frozen section of your local supermarket. The folks behind the company that makes it, Beyond Meat, are constantly tweaking the formula of its burgers, and this is the latest version. Also, Bill Gates invested in the company, so it's gotta be good! This is the Windows 95 of burgers! Actually, it's much better, and I didn't, umm, crash immediately after eating it.
It's also different from your average veggie burger because it's made fresh. The workers at this Beyond Burger-themed counter in the Whole Foods food court throw the fake meat mixture on the flattop like you would raw meat. You can even buy the refrigerated, fresh "meat" in the real meat counter at this particular Whole Foods (buy it if you see it -- they sold out one-and-a-half weeks of product in 24 hours here when it debuted), and the plans are to roll this product out to 34 stores in the region in the next four-six weeks. For now, this vegan burger counter where I ate the Beyond Burger is the only one of its kind in the country, though they're in the process of building another one in the Pacific region in 2016.
Chances are that you might be able to make this burger on your grill sometime in 2016 -- so let's dig into what it tastes like.
What's it taste like?
Strangely, kind of like a burger! I've heard people say the real way to test a veggie burger is to taste it side-by-side with a real burger -- and that it's only good if you can fool someone into thinking the fake one is real! Who the hell eats food that way? Unless you live inside of a super-strange prank show, that's a garbage way of thinking. So, no, this burger would not fool a meat eater. But that doesn't mean it isn't damn good.
While this burger can be consumed by vegans, it's also designed to be just another source of protein for omnivores to eat. As one Whole Foods rep pointed out to me, "it chews like a burger" too. He's not wrong. It's also not dry -- it tastes undeniably fresh. Other media outlets with reporters who haven't actually eaten the burger have written that it "bleeds," but I didn't see any sign of that. And I've never once eaten a burger and wished more blood was pouring out of it. This has the closest thing to a burger's mouthfeel of any veggie burger I've ever had. I remember when I first had a Boca Burger a billion years ago and thought, "Wow, this almost is like a real burger!" I was stupid back then. But you have to taste this to believe it.
The burger pictured is a Big Mac ripoff, and they dress the two patties with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and a Sriracha-based sauce that adds a nice bit of heat, and the coconut-based Chao cheese. I could have done without the whole-wheat bun, but overall, the ingredients mix to make a formidable lunch (especially because you can pair it with sweet potato hushpuppies and Millet tots made by local company RollinGreens). One burger is more than enough.
This is the future of fake meat
Beyond Meat seems to have the cultural (and financial) capital to bring its fake meat to the masses, especially as long as Whole Foods is partnering with the company to promote its products. And this burger is the company's signature item, one that I think could convince meat-eaters like myself to skip a regular burger every once in a while and have a Beyond Burger instead.
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