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:
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:
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.
Posted in Food, Uncategorized
Tagged Awesome Burger, Beyond Burger, Beyond Meat, faux, hamburger, Impossible Burger, Impossible Foods, meat, Nestle, pea protein, plant based, Raised and Rooted, Sweet Earth, Tyson Foods
For the first time in forever…sorry, Frozen fans I was just thinking that for the first time in a long time it actually feels like fall. Within the span of a single work week we have seen the temperatures drop from nearly ninety degrees to nearly freezing overnight. Welcome to the Midwest during the shoulder season!
On to the links…
The Short List Of Climate Actions That Will Work—It is super easy to explain to people:
- Electrify everything
- Overbuild renewable energy generation
- Integrate electrical transmission across continents
- Build hydropower storage systems
- Plant a lot of trees
- Reform agriculture to capture carbon in the soil
And so on. None of these actions is hard to grasp or hard to implement. It just takes political will.
Solar, Wind Are Now Cheaper Than Coal In Most Of The World—The battle has been won. To win the war we must keep pressing forward.
World’s Largest Wind Turbines to be Built off Yorkshire Coast—It is hard to grasp the scale. A single turbine producing enough electricity to power 16,000 homes. Wow. This is why the UK is transitioning away from coal.
McCharge? Yes, McDonald’s Wants To Charge Your EV—One of the goals of any convenience type purchase—food, gasoline, coffee, etc.—is to increase the number of trips you make to the location. The more trips a person makes increases the potential that the person will spend more money. If you could spend thirty minutes on a DC fast charger at McDonald’s while wolfing down a Big Mac it might make you stop.
Volta’s EV Network Gives You 30 Minutes of Free Fast Charging—Think about this as an amenity that draws traffic. If you have an EV and can get thirty minutes of high voltage charging would you be more likely to stop at that retail location over another? Probably.
First Gas Station in America to Ditch Oil for 100% Electric Vehicle Charging Opens in Maryland—Someone had to be first. However, given that EV charging does not require expensive underground storage tanks for a flammable liquid like traditional gas stations I have to imagine that the old model of gas stations is a dinosaur.
Here Is Why Electrification Of Medium/Heavy Trucks Is Important—Representing just 4% of vehicles these trucks are responsible for 9% of vehicle miles traveled and 26% of fuel gallons consumed:
Anheuser-Busch To Deploy 21 BYD Electric Trucks In California—The truck that is delivering those cases of Natty Light may now be an EV.
If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef—One change, half of our greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal. Simple.
That Viral Study About Red Meat Left Out The Most Important Part—Climate change is the greatest risk to our collective health. Ignoring its potential impacts when considering the climate change impacts of red meat production is like trying to quantify the opioid epidemic without looking at heroin use.
Amid Rising Demand for Beyond Meat Burgers, U.S. Farmers Can’t Solve This Supply Problem—It has not even been a complete growing season in North America since Beyond Meat went public and meat substitutes became a thing in the United States.
Germany Makes a National Commitment to Rescue Its Forests—There is a massive amount of climate change mitigation potential waiting to be exercised in rebuilding our stocks of forested lands. As rain forests in South America and Indonesia burn as a result of bad policy it is more important than ever to rethink our relationship to the forests in our collective backyards.
Los Angeles, a City Known for Its Freeways, Is About to Plant a Shit Ton of Trees—I do not know if it is actually a “shit ton” of trees, but it is a start. Now imagine communities across the United States and the world for that matter doing the same thing. It is possible.
The Story of The Largest Private Land Donation In History and Creation of Patagonia National Park—Just take a few minutes out of your day and watch this video. Also, imagine a world where the uber rich like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg spent money on truly bold conservation efforts.
What Would It Be Like to Live in an Era of Geoengineering?—Is it our fate to live on a planet where we have knowingly changed the natural systems to counteract our own collective stupidity? God I hope not.
Posted in Linkage, Uncategorized
Tagged Anheuser Busch, beans, beef, beer truck, BYD, charging, climate change, commercial trucks, electric vehicles, EV, forests, geoengineering, Germany, infrastructure, linkage, links, Los Angeles, offshore wind, Patagonia, pea protein, reforestation, renewable energy, urban forest
If you have school aged children in any sort of activities you understand the struggle of dinner. The solution, in my house, is taco night. A few minutes of prep with some ground beef and a bevy of on hand ingredients mean a quick dinner before running out the door to dance or soccer practice or band…you get the idea.
However, ground beef is an ethical and environmental conundrum. Regardless of how the animal is raised the production of ground beef results in the death of a cow. No amount of time on pasture can change this fact. Furthermore, most cows are raised in conditions that most people find deplorable. Feedlots and CAFOs are horrible places. Just driving by one on the interstate can make a person consider becoming a vegan.
America just loves ground beef. More than half of the beef we consume in this country is in the form of ground beef. Be it hamburgers, sloppy joes, loose meat sandwiches, chili, etc. Americans eat a lot of ground beef. Estimates are hard to come by, but the clearest numbers I have seen put our annual consumption north of 30 billion pounds of ground beef consumed in the United States per year. Most of that ground beef (>80%) comes from feedlot cattle.
This is the market that companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are trying to disrupt with their plant based alternative “hamburgers.” The ground beef market is not just hamburgers thought and that is where Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef product comes into play:
It comes out of the package looking a little bit like a brick of protein:
After a few minutes on medium-high heat the protein begins to break up into that recognizable crumble:
A package of taco seasoning and a little bit of water gives you a pan full of taco meat. It all worked just like cooking a pound of regular ol’ ground beef.
So, what is the verdict?
The process is the same as cooking traditional ground beef. That is a wash.
The flavor is…close. The texture is…close. I do not know if it is psychological because I knew it was not actual ground beef or if it is something in the formulation. It was just a little off in the same way that some meatless burger patties are off. Perhaps it is the uncanny valley of fake meat. No longer are we in the trough of the uncanny valley where the simulated product is off by enough to make it truly disturbing. Instead we are climbing toward true meat replacements in every facet that only lack a few traits.
This has to be what is scaring traditional meat producers into strong arming state legislatures to pass laws banning the word meat or burger or whatever from faux meat products. When someone who is conscious of the ethical and environmental impacts of meat production is given an alternative that has none of those concerns their choice is going to be easy. If the meat alternative is close enough in taste and texture than it is a slam dunk for a larger percentage of the population. Like Republicans holding onto an ageing base of older, rural, white Americans at the expense of a changing national demographic the meat industry is facing an existential crisis brought on by a competitor.
Beyond Beef is not cheap. At my local coop it cost $9.99 per pound. Compare that to a pound of grass fed, grass finished beef produced in Minnesota that costs anywhere from $6.99 to $8.99 a pound from the same retailer. Consider it the cost of being an early adopter.
Posted in Food, Household, Uncategorized
Tagged beet juice, Beyond Beef, Beyond Meat, CAFO, coconut oil, emissions, ethical, feedlot, gluten free, grass fed, grass finished, greenhouse gas, ground beef, legumes, methane, pea protein, pomegranate powder, refried beans, seasoning, soy, taco, vegetarian
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:
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:
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.
Posted in Food, Uncategorized
Tagged ALDI, Beyond Burger, black bean, Earth Grown, flexitarian, grill, hamburger, hippie, Impossible Burger, kitchen, meatless, nutrition, pea protein, plant based, vegan