Side Bar

Meat Substitutes: Beyond Burger, Impossible Burger, Meatless Chicken, Fake Shrimp, etc. etc.

When the so-called ‘plant-based’ meat substitutes starting hitting the market, I was keen to try them. I had not yet found my go-to veggie burger –most were too bean-y and cumin-y.  After the Impossible Burger IPO giving them unicorn status, I started to read story after story of their popularity and more meat substitutes.

I am a supporter of plant-based cooking and keenly aware that our planet cannot sustain the way we have been eating.  I’ve taken classes from Matthew Kenney Culinary on plant-based cooking. To that end, I decided that I was going to have the next Supper Club menu be a battle of the new burgers. It would be fun!

But as I started crafting a plant-based burger battle menu, I started thinking about my own cooking and eating philosophy of trying to avoid packaged and processed foods. While I support decreasing the consumption of animal meats, I wasn’t sure if I was that enthusiastic with replacing them with processed substitutes.

I decided to look at the ingredients of some of these ‘plant-based’ meats.

Here is what is in an Impossible Burger according to their website: Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.

And here is what is in a Beyond Burger: Water, Pea Protein Isolate*, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Rice Protein, Natural Flavors, Cocoa Butter, Mung Bean Protein, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Apple Extract, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vinegar, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Sunflower Lecithin, Pomegranate Fruit Powder, Beet Juice Extract (for color),  This list read a little better but what are ‘natural flavors’?

I wonder if we are just in a liminal stage where we cannot let go of meat that we are now going to such lengths so recreate it vs. eating more plants and finding new ways to prepare them as they are. 

In the end, I ditched the Impossible Burger vs. Beyond Burger Cook Off concept. The thought of burgers and all that goes with it, from ‘meat’ that was full of other ‘stuff’ and ‘flavorings’ was unappealing. Also, it was early summer and I was starting to see some awesome produce hit the green markets.

Separately,  M was advised to introduce a meat protein to her diet given mercury concerns — she was good with pork.  I also recently learned that bok choy repairs DNA (!) so decided to go Asian. We started with fresh farm veggies with edamame ginger and garlic scape dips; local lettuce salad with ginger dressing; pork-kimchi, and bok choy-tofu-ginger dumplings; bok choy with shiitake; and pickled yuzu beets. Dessert was dark chocolate and fruit. 

I will have an Impossible burger soon enough.  In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy cooking up dishes using summer produce from our local farms.