Tag Archives: plant based

Friday Linkage 8/2/2019

I say this a lot on this blog, but I have a hard time believing that it is already August.  My kids are three weeks away from going back to school, people are starting to talk about fall sports, and my mind starts to wander to thoughts of skiing.  Pretty soon the miles on the bike will start to decline and the trips to the weight room will increase.  Gotta’ get the knees ready for big days on the mountain.

On to the links…

Just 10% of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Cash ‘Could Pay for Green Transition’—When someone says that we cannot afford to transition to 100% clean energy what they are really saying is that we are choosing not to afford the transition.  There is more than enough money sloshing around in government and corporate coffers to make a renewable energy world possible.

A Wind Turbine Farm The Size Of Delaware Could Power The Entire United States—Take a look at the map and understand just how much or how little area we are talking about here:

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Now imagine we actually utilize the offshore wind resources.  Look at how much coastline there is to develop.  We can make this happen.

Low-Carbon Energy Makes Majority of UK Electricity for First Time—This is not a small island being powered by solar.  This is a large island with a post-industrial economy that got over 53% of its electricity in 2018 from low or no carbon power sources.

Coal’s Demise Quickens in Europe as Market Shift Idles Plants—If no one is lining up to buy the power then the plants will sit idle.  The market is working.

Ohio just Passed the Worst Energy Bill of the 21st Century—This is what you get with Republicans in control.  It is crony capitalism at its finest.  Private companies line their pocket with the public’s money with the consent of elected officials.

Angry about No Pay, Kentucky Miners Block Train Loaded with Coal—The coal industry does not care about the people in their employ.  These companies have never treated their employees with anything but contempt at best and deadly intent at worst.  As coal companies go bankrupt they will continue to use the legal and political system to destroy the land and line their pockets at the expense of the communities in which they operate.

Most EV Charging Infrastructure Is Wasted Due To Lack Of New Thinking—It is not that EV charging spots are not numerous enough considering that anyone with a garage or dedicated parking space probably has access to some level of charging.  It is that the charging infrastructure that exists today may not align with how we drive our EVs.

Minnesota Town Makes do Without being Connected to Power Grid—I know that a lot of us imagine living off the grid, but this is what the reality looks like.

Beyond Meat’s Competitor Impossible Foods Plans to Launch in Grocery Stores in September after getting FDA Approval—I am really looking forward to buying a sleeve of Impossible Burgers and throwing them on my own grill this fall.  What I really want to see is Beyond Meat or Impossible Burger selling sleeves of their plant based goodness at Costco.

Plant-Based Eggs Land their First Major Fast Food Deal—Slaughter houses get a bad rap because they are nasty places, but our eggs are also produced in some fairly brutal conditions.  First the plant based substitutes came for our hamburgers, now they are coming for our eggs.  I welcome the transition.

Can Chefs Learn to Love Cooking Without Fire?—Can we just stop our love affair with primal fire?  I get that something about the flame speaks to our lizard brain, but as someone who has cooked with electricity daily for the past twenty years there is no reason to rely on piping explosive gas into our homes to fuel our gastronomic adventures.

Why Republican Baby Boomers are More Likely to Share #fakenews on Facebook—I rag on Baby Boomers pretty hard, but until someone can show me how this generation has actually made the country a better place I am going to keep piling on.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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?