Tag Archives: Beyond Burger

Friday Linkage 1/17/2020

It’s a little more than two weeks away from the Iowa caucus and things are getting testy.  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are feuding about electability.  Tom Steyer is being Tom Steyer.  For some reason people actually think Joe Biden would make a good president.

All of this must be placed against the backdrop of the ultimate goal—defeating Donald Trump in such a demonstrative way that the MAGA hats become just as toxic as Confederate battle flags and white hoods.

On to the links…

Good News, Even in Darkness—It is easy to be pessimistic and it is hard to be optimistic in today’s world, but we must address things in a positive way.  We are in a dark valley.  There is light on the horizon.  We must keep pushing forward.

Negative Carbon Dioxide Emissions—This is the goal.  Not net zero, but net negative.

BlackRock’s Larry Fink: Risks from Climate Change are Bigger than the 2008 Financial Crisis with no Fed to Save Us—When the manager of a massive fund—over $7 trillion dollars in assets managed—says that the investment community better be prepared for climate change I am hoping that the markets listen.

The Solution to the Plastic Waste Crisis? It isn’t Recycling—The solution is to stop buying plastic stuff.  Actually, the answer is to just stop buying so much stuff.  Don’t worry about being a savage minimalist who excises the material demons from their home.  Just stop buying stuff and the space will naturally open up through attrition.

The Dark Side of ‘Compostable’ Take-Out Containers—Even if it is compostable, it is probably ending up in the trash.  If it is not reusable, it is probably ending up in the trash.  Plus, it’s really only compostable in specialized facilities as opposed to the black plastic bin in your backyard.  Trust me, I put one of those corn based forks in my bin as an experiment.  Two years later it still looked pretty much the same.

US Electricity: Solar Up 15%, Wind Up 9%–Now, imagine that these trends keep happening year after year.  The back of the envelope calculations show that solar would double every 4.8 years and wind would double every 8 years.

Iceland Reaches 25% EV Market Share! When Will The World Follow?—The world will follow when we price gasoline according to its impact on the climate.  Once all the externalities are accounted for there is no way people are going to pay a per gallon price for gasoline that is orders of magnitude higher than what we see at the pump today.  Just imagine if the United States figured out how much we spend on military adventures in the Middle East and applied that to each gallon of gasoline sold in the country?

Soil Health Hits the Big Time!—The dirt under our feet is full of possibilities.

Can New Bus Lines Chart a Course to Better Travel Options in the West?—The United States is never going to have the passenger rail network like Europe.  That is a good and a bad thing.  It is good when you consider that Europe will never have the heavy rail cargo network of the United States.  It is bad when you consider that transportation emissions from personal vehicles is such a big part of our climate change puzzle.  Maybe modern bus lines could help fill the gap.

Your $14 Salad’s Not as Eco-Friendly as Advertised — but Sweetgreen’s Trying—The key thing is that the company is trying.  We all need to keep trying.  BTW, who buys a $14 take out salad?

Panera Is Making Its Menu More Plant-Based to Become More Sustainable—The more mainstream vegetarian and vegan options become the better off we are as a society.  There is no reason why every fast food hamburger should not be some version of a Beyond Burger or Impossible Burger.  Why?  These are not the pinnacle of taste and texture.  Plus, the volumes of beef that would be replaced are tremendous.

Skiing is Better Without Performance Trackers—Apps that track our performance on the hill are killing the vibe.  I spent this Christmas break skiing without the Epic Mix app telling me how many vertical feet I had skied or what “badges” I had acquired.  It was freaking glorious.  Do you know what I thought about the whole trip?  Skiing.

Tyson and Nestle Join the Faux Meat Fray

There was a time when meat free alternatives to hamburgers were buried in the bottom shelf of the freezer case of most grocery stores.  Names like Boca and Morningstar Farms were familiar to people trying to avoid animal flesh in their diet while still being able to attend backyard cookouts.

My oh my, have the times changed.  The meat free hamburger patties from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat—the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger respectively—have become the “hot” food items.  Maybe not quite Popeye’s Chicken sandwich territory but popular nonetheless.  Heck, the Burger King near my place of employment has a banner advertising the availability of the Impossible Whopper.  Who would have thought that possible just a few short years ago?

Naturally, as food startups have conducted an insurgency with regard to meat free alternatives the big food companies have not been ignorant or complacent when it comes to the category.  On a recent trip to the grocery store I came across two new entries:

IMG_20191214_171643

Raised and Rooted is Tyson Foods brand that is going after the meat free market.  Sweet Earth Foods was an independent company making meat free that was acquired in 2017 by food giant Nestle USA.  Yes, the Raised and Rooted patties were on sale for $3.  Gotta’ love HyVee’s manager’s specials.

I could spend a lot of time going over the ingredients and what not.  Suffice it to say, these are fairly standard “next generation” meat free hamburger patties that eschew black beans and soy for pea protein and coconut oil.

The two patties look fairly different before getting placed on the grill:

IMG_20191214_171601

I apologize for not getting some after grilling photos for educational purposes, but dinner was coming together at the same time and the kids were hungry.  Sometimes life just takes over.

Surprisingly, the Raised and Rooted patty was pretty good.  It was good in a fast food innocuous meat kind of way.  The kind of patty that provides enough of a base for some serious condiments.  The patty had enough texture and bite without being overly dense.  This is probably the greatest trick for any fake meat hamburger patty to master as traditional hamburger patties have a strange mixture of crumbly meat and patty integrity.

I am also thankful that the Raised and Rooted patty did not try and emulate any “bleed” from the cooked burger.  I feel that this is the most hyped and unnecessary component of the Impossible Burger.  I do not need a patty to leak a puddle of ersatz meat juice as long as it tastes good.

The Awesome Burger from Sweet Earth Foods was wrong in all the ways that Boca Burgers of the past were guilty.  It cooked down to a dense, somewhat dry puck of protein with a strangely vegetal aftertaste.  This the kind of patty that someone tries once and is done for life.  Come to think of it, the patty exhibited many of the same sins that a frozen pizza from the same company possessed.  It is not enough in this day and age to be just a plant based alternative.  It has to be plant based and good.

A Meatless Burger from Aldi?

There is a trope in economics about a product or technology getting to a “China price” or an “India price.”  The idea being that it is one thing for a product or technology to be affordable to American or European consumers, but to be truly transformative something needs to be affordable to the billions of consumers in China and India.

Like most popularized economic wisdom this is a little simplistic and overlooks much of the nuance that makes a product or technology transformative.  However, there might just be a corollary for meatless hamburgers.  I propose the “Aldi price.”

Flipping through the weekly flyer that comes in the mail while I waited for my daughter to finish her weekly piano lesson I saw several meatless foods advertised in the Aldi flyer.  Normally, I do not shop at Aldi.  It has little to do with the offerings and more to do with the fact that I just don’t seem to understand shopping at Aldi.  From the quarter deposit for a cart, the odd way the store seems structured, and so on.  It is just not my bag.

However, for approximately $3 I was able to buy a package of four meatless burgers under the Earth Grown label:

IMG_20190720_160224046

This is half the price of what a Beyond Burger goes for in the grocery stores around here.  Heck, you cannot even buy the Impossible Burger for home consumption anywhere yet.  On a per ounce price basis the Aldi Earth Grown meatless burger is cheaper than decent ground beef.  At this price there can be little argument that a meatless burger is both an economic and environmental winner.  At the “Aldi price” a meatless burger is a burger that anyone can afford.

The question remains, does anyone really want an Aldi meatless burger:

IMG_20190720_160331816

There is a definite disconnect between what is shown on the box and what comes out of the box.  I would guess that the patties—which come four to a box—are about half the thickness of the patty shown on the box.  Furthermore, the texture is less ground beef analog—which is what the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger are going for—and more improved veggie burger.  This is an improvement on the lifeless Boca patties of your late 1990s backyard party.  This is not, however, a patty that will sit in the uncanny valley between actual hamburger and veggie burger.

It is amazing that we have come to a time and place regarding meatless hamburgers where we are arguing if the product is enough like actual hamburger versus is the product barely edible.  For anyone who soldiered through eating crumbly black bean patties or bizarre quinoa creations in the early aughts this is a revelation.

Another Plant Based Burger Hits the Shelves

It is amazing to see just how “hot” plant based burgers are right now.  It is difficult to spend any time reading food related websites without coming across a reference to either the Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat products. It is a long way from non-meat burgers being sad patties of soy protein, black beans, and some spices on the bottom shelf of the freezer section at your local natural foods store.

Take the Don Lee Farms organic plant based burger:

IMG_1467

I picked up this particular package from my nearest Costco.  The Costco connection is interesting because apparently the company sold more than a million patties in just 60 days earlier this year. [http://www.cookinglight.com/news/costco-sold-more-than-one-million-plant-based-don-lee-burgers]  Now, I do not know if that is a truly gangbusters number for Costco where mayonnaise is sold in literal buckets.

Naturally I felt the urge to try out this new entrant.  A package of ten frozen patties cost about $11, which is a far sight cheaper than the Beyond Burger.  The cheapest Beyond Burger was on special at my local coop for $4.99 for two patties.  In terms of value the Don Lee Farms product was running away with things.

It is suggested that the patties be cooked from frozen, so I fired up the grill and got to cooking:

IMG_1470

The babies cook up fast.  Like a couple of minutes per side and the internal temperature was already in the 150 degree Fahrenheit range.  The patties also got a little crispy around the edges really fast.  Faster than the Beyond Burger and definitely faster than a regular old grass fed beef patty.  As the Don Lee Farms burgers were cooking I noticed a distinct lack of oils or fats which is a departure from the Beyond Burger.  It seemed more in line with more traditional veggie burgers from the 1990s.  Ooooh the 1990s when ordering a plant based burger seemed subversive.

The result is mixed:

IMG_1471.JPG

The Don Lee Farms plant based burger was better than any regular non meat alternative patty, but I think it falls short of the Beyond Burger.  It’s a texture thing more than anything else and I kept getting hints of crunchy vegetables from the patty that I could not shake.  Granted, a hamburger is generally a vehicle for a lot of other flavors so when you load your burger down with an onion slide, grilled pineapple, American cheese, and Miracle Whip there is a lot going on for your taste buds to process.

Here’s the thing, we have entered into the “uncanny valley” with plant based burgers.  Each iteration is getting closer to the real thing, but a few components or our own perception is off just enough to throw the whole thing for a loop.  It was easier when you were eating a hockey puck of quinoa, water chestnuts, patchouli oil, and tempeh because you did not expect the ersatz burger to be a facsimile of actual meat.  However, when manufacturers are putting pictures on the package that make the plant based burgers look like raw meat, selling patties alongside actual meat in the butcher’s case, or advertising that the patties “bleed” the experience needs to be spot on.

Until I have had to opportunity to try the Impossible Foods burger, which is only available in restaurants that do not happen to be near me, I am going to reserve judgement on the entire category.  For now these next generation plant based burgers are pretty good at replacing the experience of an actual meat burger but there is just a little something off that is throwing the experience.

Have you tried the Don Lee Farms plant based burger?