Beyond Impossible – The Burger Question

Colleen Gray-Hewett Blog

This morning I was mountain biking with friends on a local mountain.  One asked me what the deal was with the Beyond Burger or the Impossible Burger – the vegan burgers that quite closely mimmic an actual ground beef burger.  They have the rare look, the meaty texture and even some ‘blood’.  The taste, for many vegans, including myself, is actually too much like a beef burger and therefore not appealing but given that, the appeal as a transition food or a ‘meaty’ treat for a once die-hard burger aficionado is huge.  So lets dissect some burgers.

I won’t gross you out with the truly gory details of what makes up the typical animal meat burger.  If you want those details, may I suggest a documentary or two? (Email me if you want a recommendation!).  Enough on that.

First of all, why even consider a faux meat burger when there are SO many amazing veggie burgers available to purchase or make.  If one is truly a plant-based eater, is there really a need for a Beyond or Impossible?  From a health standpoint, no.  These burgers – and you should look them up online to see how they look – are a true work of culinary science and art.  They look pretty much like an old school juicy burger.  The challenge from the health side of things is that these burgers are made of many non-whole food ingredients and quite highly processed to get to the point that the ingredients look like a beef burger and for the packaging, fridge or freezer stability then BBQ or pan fry stability and taste.

From a nutrition standpoint (still on the health aspect) these burger are designed to sit alongside their beef counterparts in pretty much every way.  That does mean high fat content (over 20grams) including saturated fat (mostly from coconut oil which is one of the few plant fats that is actually saturated), quite high salt (380 mg), low fibre (3 g), and high protein (20 g).  This is very similar to a ‘lean’ beef burger, including how it may sit in your gut once consumed.

So why, again, are these burgers so revered?

Case in point: A&W now serves the Beyond Burger veganized with a lettuce wrap (the bun is vegetarian).  So those seeking a fast food fix or a quick meal on the road, this is good.  A fully vegan option that will satisfy your hunger or cravings.  Popular? Within the first two weeks of its cross-Canada release, most A&W outlets were sold out of their Beyond Burgers.  Other fast food chains are investigating what vegan menu items they will enter the market with as people are opting away from traditional fast food partially due to lack of plant options.  There are many alternatives that do have great choices and are winning the dollars, including Chipolte, Freshii, local coffee shops and expanded grocery store deli sections.

Here are the people who will or should embrace these burger alternatives:

  1. The person who is trying to reduce their meat consumption for health and is having an understandably tough time either with certain cravings or in social situations that bring out old habits fast (backyard BBQ, watching the game with the guys and gals, camping, etc).  If having a Beyond or Impossible makes it possible to fully engage and enjoy these situations while tasting pretty darn amazing this is super key to helping stay the course.  So yay for that one – just don’t eat them too often!
  2. The ethical and/or environmental vegan who has eschewed meat as he/she can no longer tolerate any animal abuse and/or understands the impact of animal agriculture on climate change, the collapsing rainforests, oceans, deserts, glaciers and so forth.  This person may still love and crave the taste and texture of meat so having a true burger-like option is one of the reasons he or she was able to eliminate animal products from their diet in the first place.

Veggie burgers are a staple in the freezer section and in many plant-based cookbooks, websites and blogs.  There are ever-increasing options that are delicious with unique flavour and nutrient profiles.  In the ‘old days’ the only veggie burger options that weren’t homemade were soy-based.  That is no longer the case and may even be the exception.  Burgers now range from bean-based to cauliflower-based to rice or quinoa-based to nut-based or some combination of all and with added veggies like mushrooms, kale, peppers, spinach, onions, potatoes, peas, and more.  Great macro and micro-nutrient range as well.  The frozen burgers are still a form of processing but most often you will recognize all the ingredients and aim for the shortest list possible (unless its all whole plants).  If you want something lighter, there are 90-120 calorie low fat options up to the 200+ calories more nutrient dense options with higher protein.  And homemade burgers run the gamut as well.

The goal for the transitioning or newer plant-based eater or vegan is to wean off the more processed Beyond or Impossible burgers (and the host of other processed ‘meats’) or have them rarely and begin sampling the true veggie burger options.  Experimentation is the fun part!  All these burgers have their place and all are a welcome change from the gnarly ground beef or ground poultry or ground fish patties you may be consuming now.  I am super impressed with the wide-spread adoption of Beyond and Impossible (Impossible is not yet in Canada but coming soon, including to Earls restaurants which already serves them in US locations).  Notably this is mostly from the non-vegan crowd.  Vegans are not the target market.

Beyond impossible to give up your burger?  It is beyond worthwhile that’s for sure.  And you may just discover that you like plant burgers better.  In our family we usually have a veggie burger night about twice per month with a ton of fixings, buns (for the bun-eaters) and lettuce or collard wraps for the non-bunners, fresh guacamole, tomatoes, sauteed onions, vegenaise sriraccha mayo, corn relish….and hopefully some yam fries on the side.


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