Many of us are now familiar with the great possibilities that plant-based burgers present. Not only can they be delicious alternatives to meat burgers, but eventually they may be preferred over them, too!
The battle of Beyond Meat vs Impossible Burger is intensifying and further illuminated every day.
A Shift In Perception
The world has been wrung to its core over the past few months as we’ve all weathered multiple, relentless aspects of the coronavirus pandemic. One thing we’re thinking more about is how we can improve our bodies’ capacities to fight viral infection.
Serious consideration of plant-based meat products has been one of the most significant shifts in public thought.
I have never seen so many articles touting plant-based diets as an excellent way to strengthen immunity, which is amazing!
Among these articles are several that address the substantial increase in popularity of both Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger. Along with this popularity, they have become the sweethearts of the stock market, as stock prices for both leap to unprecedented levels.
Not long ago, I remember plant-based burgers were considered fluffy fodder for hapless hipsters with money to burn. Now, my Google alerts send me lists of articles citing the rapid increase in popularity of both Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger.
My First Encounter (sort of) with the Impossible Burger
I was at work when I first learned of the Impossible Burger in 2016. The executive chefs in my assigned kitchen got their hands on a few of them. Known as the resident vegan weirdo in a kitchen that routinely served absurd amounts of meat (yes, some of which I had to cook), one of my coworkers alerted me to the executive chefs who were playing around with the Impossible Burger at the grill station.
“You should see it!,” he exclaimed, and quickly grimaced. “It’s weird, it bleeds like real meat.”
I rolled my eyes and didn’t bother going to see it. Not a fan of processed foods in general, I dismissed this as another subpar product created by dispassionate business people trying to cash in on the plant-based craze.
Well, I was wrong – in a number of ways! Four-year-old hindsight has enlightened me with a few things.
Going Plant-Based to Strengthen Immunity
Okay, so processed foods are not the pinnacle of nutrient richness. But, upon taking a look at the ingredients list for both Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger, they are not terrible – particularly Beyond Meat, which I think has an edge on Impossible Burger for reasons that I’ll mention in a bit.
Cowspiracy, Vegucated (see this for free on YouTube! you won’t regret it :)), and Forks Over Knives are all wonderful documentaries which helped me kick off my vegan diet. They all make clear the horrors that our industrialized meat industry impose on the animals, the environment, and ultimately, on us.
If there’s anything that has become apparent in the past couple of months, it’s that our meat industry is suffering tremendously.
One of the conditions that meat industry workers must endure is very close proximity to one another while working.
As written by Vox, the workers stand shoulder to shoulder while dismembering animals. The article doesn’t mention whether they have masks to wear. But even if they do, I am sure that consistent, intimate exposure to dead animals cannot be a sanitary or a healthy venture. Even if they did have masks, in my non-doctor-totally-layperson’s-common-sense opinion, I am doubtful that the masks would be effective.
Using Plant-Based Foods to Fight Illness
Health and immunity are usually something of a concern for many of us, even if the concern is a somewhat distant thought. Coronavirus has elevated everyone’s awareness and brought those concerns to the forefront of their minds. More than ever, people are more receptive to the ways in which a plant-based diet can boost their body’s abilities to fight illness.
People are now learning at a very brisk pace that plant-based diets can pave the way toward better general health.
How Healthy Can Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers Be? They’re Still Processed Foods.
You can begin your plant-based journey eating Beyond Meat or Impossible Burgers, then develop a taste for more nutrient-rich whole foods. Your palate is quite adaptable, and the more plant-based products you eat, the more it craves. The more you feel your entire body reaping the benefits of whole plant foods, the more you’ll gravitate toward them.
I also like that Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger give those who shy away from their veggies a step in the plant-based direction. The burgers are a stepping stone of familiarity for people who could potentially become full-fledged vegans at some point. Being widely available and accessible to everyone is also important. Both burgers have already introduced themselves to future vegans through avenues as ubiquitous as Dunkin’ Donuts and Burger King!
So if you’ve heard a little bit about the Beyond Meat vs Impossible Burger battle, or if you’re simply curious about these plant-based burgers, you’re in the perfect place!
Let’s take a closer look at both of these currently high-performing stock market heavyweights.
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The Beyond Meat burger appeals to me for many reasons.
It really does have a meaty texture. Well, isn’t it supposed to? You may be asking. Isn’t that the whole point? Yes, definitely. My pleasant surprise at Beyond Meat’s texture really just comes from skepticism that I’ve accrued over many years of eating plant-based burgers.
I have had more plant-based burgers in the past few years than I should have. Beet burgers, lentil and rice burgers, black bean burgers, seitan burgers, you name a vegan burger and I’ve probably had it. They ranged in texture. Some were overly moist and mushy (beet burger). And some had good, solid texture, but were very heavy in density and in the way it sits in your gut for hours on end (hello, seitan burger).
Great Taste, Texture, and Overall Appeal
The last time I had a Beyond Meat burger was at a friend’s summer gathering last year. It was delicious! Beyond Meat left me feeling satiated but not stuffed and sluggish, and I liked the way the outside of the patty cooked up to a bit of a crisp. For me, this added to Beyond Meat’s appeal. Having Beyond Meat made me feel like I was at a real outdoor grill party, even when we were really just gathered in a small NYC apartment!
I never expected to enjoy a pre-packaged plant-based burger this much. Its meaty density, the way it cooks up, and how I feel after I eat it make Beyond Burger a winner for me. But even more than that, it doesn’t try to imitate the taste and feel of meat. It truly lives up to its name in this sense and goes “beyond” what a burger is by delivering a deliciously unique flavor profile.
The author of this well-researched Mashable article is very much on point when he writes:
“Meanwhile vegetarians…seem to prefer the Beyond, possibly in part because it isn’t trying to fox their tastebuds.
Beyond has a taste all its own, one that’s particularly hard to describe. I think of it as kind of a nutty flavor; others say mesquite. But the texture, to my mind, is where the Beyond is best.”
This vegan completely agrees with what he’s saying here!
For dedicated carnivores who are looking to incorporate some plant-based eats, the Impossible Burger may be more up your alley. Read on!
Full disclosure: I haven’t interacted with the Impossible Burger since that day I had the chance to do so four years ago, so I can’t give you a first-hand account of what it tastes like.
The Target Audience
For this plant-based burger that also features faux blood like a meat burger, my feeling is that its target audience is carnivores who otherwise would not touch plant-based meat if you paid them. And that’s great! I think it’s awesome that there is a company working this hard to try to reel in hardcore meat eaters.
In that same Mashable article, the author describes the experience of eating Impossible Burger’s most current recipe as uncannily identical to that of eating a ground beef burger:
Impossible Version 2.0 is so close to the real thing in taste and texture that it is sometimes hard to tell the difference.
And hits home when he describes how his vegetarian sister won’t go near an Impossible Burger:
Many life-long vegetarians, including my sister, are so freaked out by the Impossible burger’s resemblance to beef that they simply will not eat it.
You May Love It, Even If I Don’t
As a seven-year vegan, I can vouch for being freaked out. This is why I felt absolutely no desire to go see what the execs chefs were doing with the new Impossible Burger that day in 2016. My coworker told me it was bleeding like real meat. I don’t want a burger that tries so hard to replicate the experience of eating a bloody meat burger.
And now my suspicion that other vegan/vegetarians may very well hold this same view has been validated. This makes sense to me.
My personal preference gravitates strongly toward food that has no hints of animal influence. Faux fish, faux buffalo wings, faux meat in general don’t appeal to me, but my approach does not and need not work for everyone!
Remember that food is extremely personal. Our desires for particular flavors, textures, and aromas are deeply embedded into our childhoods, our cultures, our memories. For those who would enjoy a plant-based experience that mirrors one of eating a beef burger, Impossible Burger is a good choice!
Whether you prefer a plant-based burger that’s “bloody” or not, either is a fine way to approach plant-based eating – especially if you are just starting to test these vegan waters out.
Tale of the Tape
Now that we have a handle on what Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger taste like, let’s take a look at ingredients and nutrition facts.
Soy-Free / Gluten-Free / GMO-Free / Kosher
Water, Pea Protein*, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Rice Protein, Natural Flavors, Cocoa Butter, Mung Bean Protein, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Apple Extract, Pomegranate Extract, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vinegar, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Sunflower Lecithin, Beet Juice Extract (for color).
- Calories: 260
- Fat: 18g (Saturated fat: 5g / Trans Fat: 0g)
- Cholesterol: 0
- Sodium: 350mg
- Total Carbohydrates: 5g
- Dietary Fiber: 2g
- Sugars: 0g (includes 0g added sugars)
- Protein: 20g
- Vitamin D: 0mcg
- Calcium: 100mg
- Iron: 4.0mg
- Potassium: 280 mg
Gluten-Free / Halal / Kosher
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, Mixed Tocopherols (Antioxidant), Soy Protein Isolate, Vitamins and Minerals (Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12).
- Calories: 240
- Fat: 14g (Saturated Fat: 8g / Trans Fat: 0g)
- Cholesterol: 0g
- Sodium: 370mg
- Total Carbohydrates: 9g
- Dietary Fiber: 3g
- Total Sugars: <1g (includes added sugars <1g)
- Protein: 19g
- Vitamin D: 0mcg
- Calcium: 170mcg
- Iron: 4.2mg
- Potassium: 610mg
Enjoy Both Burgers In Moderation
With just a quick glance at these two lists, you are quickly reminded that these are indeed processed foods. This is indicated by relatively high sodium levels in each burger, so keep this in mind if you are vigilant about your sodium intake.
Even if you aren’t worried about your sodium levels, any type of processed foods should be enjoyed in moderation. Don’t eat either of these burgers every day!
But when you do have a burger, add on a side of fresh produce. This kale idea would make a great side for either burger. 🙂
A quick note for those trying to avoid soy and/or gluten: you’ll notice that Beyond Meat would be your choice.
Beyond Meat’s Improved Ingredient List
I am thrilled with Beyond Meat’s latest recipe as listed above!
It’s so much shorter than its former ingredient list, and much cleaner. The old list contained a few things I wasn’t crazy about, like modified food starch, but it’s gone – along with a few other filler ingredients. This is awesome!
But, They Both Have…
This is cellulose extracted from plant walls. Sounds harmless enough, right? Sure, if the process stopped there. But it doesn’t.
The cellulose is chemically treated, then becomes methylcellulose – a gelling agent that acts as a thickener and emulsifier in foods.
In processed foods, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid chemically engineered ingredients like methylcellulose. So it’s important to check food labels and try to find items that have as few of these types of ingredients as possible.
Should the presence of methylcelllulose be enough to make you push an occasional Beyond Meat or Impossible Burger away?
Should the presence of methycellulose deter you from making this an everyday or even semi-everyday choice?
Should you be looking closer at methylcellulose and other engineered ingredients so that you can stay informed about what you’re digesting?
What Else Is Important to Know?
There has been a slight bit of kerfuffle over how Impossible Burger makes that bloody-realness component to their patties.
Impossible Burger contains two genetically modified ingredients: soy leghemoglobin and soy protein.
Soy leghemoglobin (a.k.a. “heme”) provides the juicy bloodiness that mimics real beef.
Who Wins the Beyond Meat vs Impossible Burger Battle?
Animals, the environment, and people who are trying to improve their health and immunity by exploring a plant-based diet.
If you’re soy and/or gluten-free, Beyond Meat is win for you.
If you’re a lifelong carnivore looking to find true burger satisfaction in plant-based form, then Impossible Burger is a win for you.
Have you ever tried either of these burgers?
Do you have a favorite?
I’d especially love to hear thoughts from meat eaters who have tried either burger, and from meat eaters who are intrigued enough to try them!