Tag Archives: faux meat

Friday Linkage 4/3/2020

We are al alumni of Zoom University it seems at this point.

Seriously, why do some trolls feel the need to “zoombomb” the meetings were are conducting online?

That’s right, because even in the middle of a national crisis racist trolls are going to do the things that racist trolls will do.

Stay safe out there.

On to the links…

If The Virus Can Decimate Global Economies So Can Climate Change—All of the bad impacts of coronavirus are strikingly similar to the bad impacts of climate change except we cannot create a vaccine or therapeutic treatments for climate change.

Coyotes are Being Seen on the Empty Streets of San Francisco—It did not take long for the animals to decide to start taking over.

Oceans Can be Restored to Former Glory within 30 Years, Say Scientists—If the past few weeks have shown us anything it is that one of the most powerful things we can do as a species is to get out of the way of nature.  It will find a way to heal and rebalance.

Wildlife Charity Plans to Buy UK Land to Give it Back to Nature—Take this idea and spread it across the globe.  Pockets of rewilded nature everywhere.  Start to link those pockets and stitch them together with existing “wilderness.”  That sounds like a plan.

The EPA Appears to be Using Coronavirus to Make Huge Concessions to Polluters—Remember, Republicans used to be all about “law and order.”  Now, this usually means locking up people who cannot fight back with lawyers and lobbyists.  So, in the current world if you are a big company or a white collar criminal the laws do not actually apply to you.  Let the crime spree begin.

Federal Judge Tosses Dakota Access Pipeline Permits, Orders Full Environmental Review—I am almost certain that the Trump administration will try and ignore this ruling because they truly are the best administration that money can buy when it come to fossil fuels.

The Closure of Colorado Coal-Fired Powerplants is Freeing up Water for Thirsty Cities—The dirty little secret of fossil fuels is just how much water it takes to produce and use fossil fuels.  Now your calculus of closing down a power plant could include the financial benefit of selling water rights to a municipality.  Solar power never looked so good in Colorado.

Last Coal-Fired Generating Plants Closing In UK & New York—The end is near for coal in the UK and New York.

The Inevitable Collapse Of Global Oil Production—Global oil demand is expected to crash by more than 20% in April/May.  Can we find a way through where none of that production comes back online?

Fossil Fuel Industry Looks to Profit With Plastics—The oil and gas industry are finding it increasingly hard to make money selling fossil fuels for transportation and energy.  The key to their long term profitability and, thus, survivability is to pivot into making more plastic and chemicals.  If there was ever a reason to go plastic free this is it.

Solar Fuel: Yep, It’s A Genuine Artificial Leaf—The scary thing for oil and gas companies looking to make plastics and chemicals is that there are renewable ways to do the exact same thing.  Feedstock is feedstock whether it comes from a well in the ground or the sunshine hitting the Earth.

Scientists Find Bug that Feasts on Toxic Plastic—Imagine bio-reactors filled with this bacterium munching away on our generations worth of waste plastic.

Report Reveals ‘Massive Plastic Pollution Footprint’ of Drinks Firms—How about we just stop buying beverages in disposable plastic containers?

GCL Plans To Invest $2.5 Billion In World’s Largest Solar Panel Factory—60 gigawatts of annual solar panel production is monstrous.  Like half of the world’s annual demand monstrous.  If you ware a fossil fuel player, watch out.

This Company Wants to Turn Your Windows into Solar Panels—I have seen these kinds of announcements before and nothing ever seems to come of it.  Maybe this time is different.

Revealed: Monsanto Predicted Crop System Would Damage US Farms—The companies that produce these chemicals knew that their products would cause harm and they did not care because they stood to make billions of dollars.  If you think politicians care about farmers ask them to stop taking money from companies like Bayer.

Designing an End to a Toxic American Obsession: The Lawn—Let 2020 be the year that we kill the American lawn as we know it.  No more bags of fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides spread indiscriminately in the pursuit of an unnatural monoculture.

For Skiers, There’s a Contaminant Underfoot—The pursuit of the gnar does not mean that we have to pollute the food web of alpine environments.  One time base coats are an option.  So are more environmentally ski wax products like mountainFLOW eco-wax.

The Secret to Curbing Farm Emissions is Buried in the Stone Age—It seems like every solution that is proposed to help alleviate carbon emissions is about rediscovering a gentler way of conducting the business of being human.

Is Fake Meat Getting too Much like the Real Thing?—This is kind of the point. No one wants to go back to the dark days of veggie burgers that tasted like stale quinoa and dry black beans.

Does Beyond Sausage Smoke?

Hamburger patties get most of the attention when it comes to plant based faux meat.  Why?  America is a land of hamburgers.  It is one of our core national foods.  Fast food restaurants on just about every major intersection sell hamburgers by the bag full.  If one is making a bet on a startup you go where there is a lot of market share to grab.

However, there is a world of delivery vehicles for meat that are not hamburgers or beef analogues.  The next frontier will probably be sausage.  Whether in link form or bulk we also eat a lot of sausage.  It’s on pizzas.  It’s in breakfast burritos.  It’s not the grill right next to the hamburgers.

It looks like the second wave of faux meat from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat is going to focus on sausage.  In this post I am going to take a look at Beyond Meat’s Beyond Sausage:

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This package is the “hot Italian” variety.  At the grocery store there was also a traditional bratwurst variety, but for smoking I thought the spicier variety might work better.

I put the four faux meat links in with two varieties of traditional pork sausage—fresh garlic and Toulouse—from the good people at the Sausage Foundry in Cedar Rapids in the smoker.  At ~225 degrees Fahrenheit the sausages came to temperature fairly quickly and evenly.  All three varieties came to temperature within a few minutes of each other which was nice.

Out of the smoker the Beyond Sausages had turned from a smoky red to a dusty mustard:

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Compared to the traditional pork sausages the grind of the Beyond Sausages was really fine.  It bordered on hot dog consistency in many ways.  The traditional pork sausages had more of the tooth and bite you want out of a link.

In terms of smoke flavor the Beyond Sausage absorbed some, but there was definitely less of an impact compared with the traditional smoked sausages.  This has to be attributed in part of the density of the interior, which is also tied back to the grind.  I wish I had snapped a photo, but you could see a nice quarter inch ring of pink around the circumference of the fresh garlic and Toulouse links.  Those links definitely absorbed more smoke flavor.

Of note was that the spice level was highly variable from one sausage to the next.  The first link that I ate had very little heat, but the second came on with that kick of heat you expect from hot Italian sausage.

It is quickly approaching the point where we are debating whether faux meat alternatives are as good as the meat products that they are intended to replace rather than asking if they are good enough for meat substitutes.  This is where the tipping point for mass adoption occurs because the benefits are so great that “good enough” performance causes people to switch without regret.

The Uncanny Valley of Faux Meat

Americans love hamburgers.  Let me amend that because the world seems to love hamburgers.  I have seen people—not just tourists, mind you—chowing down on hamburgers on at least three continents.  However, the United States takes it to another level.  The saying may be “as American as apple pie” but you could easily substitute a hamburger and no one would bat an eyelash.

That love of hamburgers has a big environmental impact.  How big?  Consider that it is estimated that Americans eat approximately 50 billion hamburgers per year or enough to circle the Earth 32 times if laid next to each other. That is a lot of meat in disc form.

Assuming that each hamburger patty is 4 ounces—the literal quarter pounder—that equates to 12.5 billion pounds of hamburger.  Consider for a moment that one pound of beef represents an average of 1,800 gallons of water or close to 16 pounds of released carbon dioxide.  That is a lot of impact, which still does not take into account factors like antibiotic resistance from feedlot operations, land use considerations, or just general animal welfare.

The odds that Americans would be willing to give up their hamburgers is low, so why not just have them give up the beef patty?  Let’s be honest and consider that for a lot of people the patty is just a vehicle for the toppings and accoutrements.  Just replace those beef patties with veggie burgers…

Oh yeah, most veggie burgers are wet cardboard masquerading as a viable alternative to an American favorite.  No thanks.  That sad patty may have been acceptable for Carl the guy from accounting who does not eat meat that Susie invited to the work function for some reason, but for the rest of the red blooded Americans in the backyard this is a no go.

Enter the start-ups, dreamers, and just plain ambitious people who think that there is way to enjoy something that is much more burger like without the stench of sadness that is a traditional veggie burger.  I would love to tell you all about the much hyped Impossible Burger from Impossible Foods, but it has been impossible—sorry, I could not help myself—to find locally or in any of the places I have been on a trip recently.  The reviews have been trickling in online for a while and it seems to hold a lot of promise.  There is a location in Nebraska that I will pass by in four weeks that is supposed to have the item on the menu, so there is a chance.

Locally, I can find the other much hyped faux meat burger from Beyond Meat: the Beyond Burger.  The concept behind this burger is that it is a “plant-based burger that looks, cooks, and tastes like a fresh beef burger.”  Beyond Meat wants you to think of this as a direct analogue to regular ground beef patties so much that it had placed the patties in the meat cases of grocery stores rather than with the Tofurkey.

On a plate and ready for the grill these sure do look like a regular beef patty:

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Off the grill and on a bun with all the fixings…I am not so sure.  I think it comes down to expectations.  This is, hands down, the best non-meat burger I have ever eaten.  However, if I come at the evaluation purely from the viewpoint of an all-beef patty I am left underwhelmed.  That is why I feel that this new generation of faux meat patties is potentially stuck in an uncanny valley.  It’s better than any faux meat that has come before, but in coming so close to the real thing it falls considerably short in some way.

The Beyond Burger did grill like its animal protein cousin…kind of.  It sizzled appropriately when introduced to the hot grill plates and there were even a few flare ups as combustible juices flowed down onto the heat shields.  The patties developed an appealing crust and cooked in about the same amount of time as a dead cow patty.

Covered in some American cheese—the appropriate choice for melty nirvana—and the other typically American cornucopia of condiments—onion, ketchup, and mustard—resulted in a satisfying burger-esque experience.  It was not a half pound of fresh ground Pat La Frida beef, but I did not expect it to be either.  Upon further review I might change how I cooked the patties moving from an outdoor grill to a flattop.

The biggest downside of these patties?  The packaging:

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Hamburger buns come in packages of eight and I always make extra because leftover burgers are a lunch time staple in my house.  Four plastic trays, four cardboard wrappers, and some trash plastic film is a little much.  How about a sleeve of these bad boys available at Costco?

It appears that Beyond Meat is bullish on the future of its approach.  The company recently announced a major expansion of its research capabilities.