Much has been said about the recent introduction of Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger, a vegan patty that supposedly so closely mimics the flavor and texture of animal meat that it’s sold in meat departments at nationwide grocery stores. But how would I know? After being vegan for approximately 14 years (and vegetarian since 1997), I don’t remember what meat tastes like. You know who does? My parents, which is why I decided to take them to dinner at Veggie Grill—where the Beyond Burger is now featured on the menu—to get their thoughts on whether or not this latest cruelty-free innovation will convert carnivores to plant-based eating. Here’s what they had to say.
First impressions of the burger:
Mom: The burger looks very good, like a regular burger. As a whole, it’s juicy and messy like a regular hamburger. I think it helps that it has all the condiments a regular burger has, so visually you think you’re eating a regular burger. You can see the grill marks, and the color is a little pink-ish.
Dad: I’m an expert at burgers. It’s like asking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to judge fourth graders to play basketball—I’m a professional … (The burger is) comparable in size to regular hamburgers—they didn’t scrimp on it. You’d think that going to a healthy vegan place, it would be a smaller portion, but this is as big as what you’d get anywhere.
As they’re eating:
Mom: Halfway through, and I’m already full. The burger is softer than regular hamburger meat. I like it. I would eat this over a hamburger any day because red meat to me is just too strong. This has a milder flavor. I would definitely eat this again.
Dad: It’s a milder taste than a regular meat burger. It doesn’t punch you in the face. If somebody was to tell me what the calories were at some of the other places I eat, that would probably be a big plus for me as far as eating healthier and getting over here (Veggie Grill). For a vegan eating this who wants a burger but can’t eat a real burger, this would be acceptable. You couldn’t tell the difference between this and anything else (Editor’s note: he’s eating it very fast). The fries and strawberry lemonade are good, too. The burgers I eat, I can barely taste the flavor of the meat. Throw a little barbecue sauce on there, and you probably wouldn’t know much of a difference.
On discovering the health differences:
Me: According to the Beyond Burger website, there are 20 grams of protein versus 19 in a meat burger, and 290 calories in this versus 287. The fat is 22 versus 23, and zero cholesterol versus 80.
Dad: So it’s comparable. Zero cholesterol? Between a regular burger and this, and cholesterol is the only way of judging it, I’d say I need to get healthy and eat this burger. If calories are the same and I’m going for taste, I’ll go for a regular burger. But you know what? Usually, I eat a regular burger when I’m not supposed to and I feel guilty. I wouldn’t feel guilty eating this because I realize real burgers are bad for you and the fact that this has no cholesterol probably makes me think that I ate better. The only thing I would complain about is they haven’t brought me my brownies that usually go with my burger.
Dad: It fills you up—no doubt about it. I was expecting a little wimpy burger: it’s not a wimpy burger at all. It tastes healthier, even though with all of the comparisons are equal, it tastes healthier because it doesn’t have that big meat flavor. This whole meal, though, is what you would buy if you were going out: you got fries, you got a big burger, you got cheese, you got lettuce. It’s a hamburger plate. I could tell a difference, but not so much that I’d say, “I’m not putting another bite in my mouth.” I’d eat the whole thing. You automatically think vegan is going to be a putrid taste. You go, “What did I just put in my mouth?” But if you can chew this and swallow it, it’s not that bad.
Mom: I don’t really care for burgers anymore—I haven’t had one in years. It’s very satisfying, and you need that. I would probably eat this even though I don’t eat red meat, but I don’t really care for hamburgers, per se. I don’t know if I would specifically go out and buy this at Whole Foods or something, but I don’t have cravings for hamburgers. It’s not like I would say, “I’m dying for a hamburger.” (But) That’s proof right there: he ate the whole burger, and he’s a meat-and-potatoes guy.
Ryan Ritchie is a VegNews digital editor whose favorite thing to order at Veggie Grill is the Savory Kale Caesar salad.
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