From the meat aisle: Taking on the Beast Burger
Reporter: Madeline Judge
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Product: Beast Burger, by Beyond Meat
What she said: The Beast Burger sounds really epic. It was not.
There are plenty of good reasons for avoiding animal products - environmental, animal welfare, human health, and production efficiency. Still, it can be hard to satisfy those cravings for a juicy hamburger or thirst-quenching glass of milk. I know because I’m surrounded by both in this college town, home to University of Michigan.
I am mostly vegetarian, largely because good quality meat is expensive and I’m not particularly skilled at preparing it. However, I have no problem eating meat that is grown outside a factory farm. I've raised livestock both as a hobby growing up and later as part of my job working on small farms around Michigan and Maine. I respect animals’ intelligence and gentle natures and I care deeply about their wellbeing. For these reasons, I choose to support farmers who treat their animals with the love and respect I show my own animals.
When Stone Pier Press asked me to do a taste test of Beast Burger from Beyond Meat, I was pretty excited. The company advertises its products as resembling animal-based meat in taste, texture, and nutrition. The company has partnered with popular low-cost grocery store chains around the country to bring its products to as many people as they can, and they directly appeal to meat-eaters in their marketing.
I found the Beast Burger at my local Meijer (a low-cost supermarket chain unique to the Midwest) in the freezer section alongside other brands and Beyond Meat products. The Beast Burger is free of soy, gluten, and GMOs. The ingredient list includes spinach, broccoli, carrot, tomato, shiitake mushroom, beet juice, mesquite, and pomegranate seed. Pea protein is the driving force behind its 23 grams of protein.
So...not what I expected
I prepared my Beast Burger according to the package instructions and right away noticed it looks more like a bean burger than a beef burger. The texture was a bit off as well. It's too chalky and not realistically comparable to beef in my opinion. It does have a bit of a smoky BBQ flavor to it, which is pleasant, but that’s where any semblance of meat flavor stopped. I convinced my younger sister to try it, and she was not a fan of the lingering flavor after our trial had ended. Even though we may have spared a cow, the alternative was not exactly worth it to us. To be fair, had we prepared it with all the regular burger fixings it would probably have tasted better and more burger-like. (This is how my editor likes to eat it. She's a fan.)
Overall, Beyond Meat has a great concept in creating plant-based ‘meat’ and marketing it to meat-eaters. At $5.79 for two patties, the Beast Burger is not the most budget-friendly option, but it is affordable and readily available at my local grocery store and it’s easy to prepare. The Beast Burger didn’t quite live up to its claims of tasting and feeling just like meat, and because of this, it missed the mark for me. However, I'll probably try Beyond Meat’s other plant-based products like The Beyond Burger and Beyond Beef Crumbles, which I hear are really good.
Takeaway: There are lots of great plant-based burgers out there, but if you're expecting a substitute to have exactly the same taste and texture of the real thing, you might end up disappointed. The good news: in a few short years, the 'clean' version of real meat and fish will be widely available.
We've put together a chart that highlights meatless burgers we love, the ETA for clean meat and clean milk (real meat and milk without the animal), and suggestions for meatless chicken, turkey, and dairy-free cheese and milk. Definitely worth a visit.
Interested in the clean meat revolution? Check out cleanmeat.org to learn more.