By Connor Lynch
The bad news for beef farmers is many people likely won’t know they are not eating meat if handed a meatless plant-based burger, unless it’s stripped of toppings.
Farmers Forum invited five people to take a blind taste test by sampling an A&W Mama burger and an A&W Beyond Meat burger. A restaurant manager told Farmers Forum that the Mama burger is their closest beef burger in size to the Beyond Meat burger.
The Beyond Meat burger is a new arrival in Canada and is now in about 40,000 grocery stores across North America. Mostly made with pea protein, the burgers are supposed to taste like meat, thanks to some clever chemistry by the California company that makes them.
Three participants in our taste test picked the beef burger as their favourite. Two picked the Beyond Meat burger. But neither burger was anyone’s runaway favourite. Everyone said both burgers were tasty.
Two participants, however, picked the beef burger right away. “I could definitely tell, by look and by taste,” said one. The texture was a dead giveaway, he said. The Beyond Meat burgers come apart more easily and have less flavour, giving the edge to beef, he said. “I tasted the ketchup, but not meat.”
Said the other: “The veggie burger was good but for people who eat beef on a regular basis, this is not going to cut it.”
Two participants thought the Beyond Meat burger was a bit juicier. One participant, who said he loves beef, was surprised that he chose the Beyond Meat burger as his favourite. He noted, however, that with all the garnishes (both burgers had the same toppings) it was extremely hard to tell the difference. “Really, this isn’t beef? They did a really good job,” he said. When he stripped away the toppings and tasted just the patties, it was no contest. He picked beef as the clear winner.
There’s more good news for beef farmers. The real beef burger and the pea-based burger have about the same calories. The beef burger has a little more protein and the pea burger has more iron. But the pea-burger contains more sodium and fat, two things people tend to overconsume. The pea-burger is also a highly-processed food, the kind that dietitians recommend that we eat less of.
The real burger is also less expensive at the restaurant. The Mama burger is $4.89. The Beyond Meat burger is $6.99.