It looks, cooks, and apparently tastes like a meat burger – but what does the arrival of the vegan Beyond Burger mean?
This week (12 November), a plant-based burger from Beyond Meat, the US brand that has gained investors of the likes of Bill Gates and Leonardo DiCaprio, has been sold in its first UK supermarket.
The burger oozes ‘blood’ using a small amount of beetroot for colour, with coconut oil and potato starch providing ‘mouth-watering juiciness and chew’.
“We see the growing global demand for delicious, plant-based proteins and are excited to serve that demand in the UK with the revolutionary Beyond Burger,” said Seth Goldman, executive chair of Beyond Meat.
Dominika Piasecka, spokesperson for The Vegan Society, sees the new addition to supermarkets as a boost for veganism. She said: “Anything that gives more choice for people to eat vegan food is a positive move, particularly if it comes from a large company whose products are widely available around the world.
“Meat alternatives allow people to enjoy familiar dishes and some of their favourite comfort foods without compromising their values of kindness and compassion,” she continued.
Meat me at the end of the aisle
As in the US, the burger will be stocked in the chilled aisle – something that has come as a shock to butcher shop owner, Phil Bennett from Leeds.
“What about the vegan that really dislikes meat and doesn’t want to be in that area? It’s just to try and get under people’s skin; it should all be kept in the same aisle,” he said.
“I just can’t understand it really, if somebody is really that much against meat, why would they want something that looks like meat … that tastes like meat? I don’t understand why they’d want it to be in the meat section.”
Bennetts Quality Butchers made headlines over the summer when a member of staff waved raw meat in the faces of protesting vegans.
In October, the plant-based treat launched in Honest Burger and All Bar One restaurants, but this marks the first supermarket stocking, with more than 350 Tesco stores nationwide selling the product.
Costing £5.50, the meat replicator is a lot more expensive than its counterparts, with the Quorn meat-free classic burger costing £2.50 for two, and Vivera veggie burgers costing just £2.00 (Tesco). Tesco’s Finest British beef burgers cost £3.00 for four.
Bennett described the price of the Beyond Burger as “extortionate”.
Keep bleeding, keep, keep bleeding love
While the placement of the burger in the meat aisle can, and clearly has, been argued, what about the burger itself? While the FitPro jury is still out due to trying to hunt one down, award-winning burger restaurant Cut and Grind, which serves both beef burgers and a vegan-friendly alternative, had its say on the burger’s introduction to UK supermarket shelves.
“Choice is key in my mind and if eating a plant-based burger that replicates an average beef burger helps to reduce the total quantity of meat people eat, that’s got to be a good thing,” said Paschalis Loucaides, founder of Cut and Grind Burgers, winner of National Burger of the Year 2018 for its Juicy Classic.
“I do, however, still have some doubts as to the overall environmental impact of the ‘bleeding burgers’. The fact they are produced in a food factory not a kitchen, the fact that extracted chemicals are used to replicate taste and texture rather than celebrating the natural flavours of the plant they come from – we just don’t yet know what the benefits are.”
Have you tried the bleeding burger? Should it be stocked in the meat aisle? Vegans and meat eaters alike, let us know.
We’re off to try and find one – any excuse for a burger.
In other nutrition news this week:
Campaign group call for ban on mega milkshakes
Action on Sugar survey shows ‘excessively high’ sugar levels in milkshakes sold in high street restaurants and fast food chains.
The survey, undertaken at Queen Mary University of London, showed that some milkshakes contain as much as 39 teaspoons of sugar – more than six times the recommended daily amount for a seven-to-10 year old.
Of those in the survey, Toby Carvery was found to have the milkshake with the most sugar with 156g (39 teaspoons) in its ‘Unicorn Freakshake’. The British Heart Foundation found that an average 25 year old would have to jog for nearly three hours to burn off the calorie intake (1,280kcal).
While Public Health England wants to see a 20% reduction by 2022, Action on Sugar feels this is not enough and sees a complete ban on shakes containing more than 300 calories as the way forward.
“Despite milkshakes being incorporated into Public Health England’s Sugar Reduction Programme as part of the Government’s childhood obesity plan, it is clear from our survey that much more needs to be done than a 20% reduction,” said Action on Sugar’s Professor MacGregor.
The group are also calling for an obligatory traffic-light system of nutritional labelling across all menus.
Registered nutritionist Kawther Hashem, researcher at Action on Sugar based at Queen Mary University of London, sees the lack of transparency surrounding the calorie count as another issue.
“Undoubtedly, some of these milkshakes contribute to excess sugar and calorie intake, and it is shocking this information is hidden from the consumer, who would struggle to find it,” she said.
The group found that many out-of-home companies do not publish their nutrition information online or in their outlets, including Byron, Creams, and TGI Fridays.
The worst-offending milkshakes, based on sugar content per serving in high street restaurants and fast food chains, were:
Toby Carvery Unicorn Freakshake – 156g/39 teaspoons
Five Guys Milkshake Base + Banana + Chocolate – 149g/37 teaspoons
Five Guys Milkshake Base + Cherry – 120g/30 teaspoons
Pizza Hut Salted Caramel Ice Cream Shake – 95.4g/24 teaspoons
Harvester Cookie Monster Freakshake – 95g/24 teaspoons
Toby Carvery Cookie and Chocolate Freakshake – 94g/24 teaspoons
Supermarket milkshakes weren’t spared either, with the worst offenders based on sugar contents per serving being:
Miller Milk Frijj Chocolate Flavour 400ml – 42.8g/11 teaspoons
Miller Milk Frijj Fudge Brownie Flavour 400ml – 42.8g/11 teaspoons
Miller Milk Frijj Cookie Dough Flavour 400ml – 41.6g/10 teaspoons
More delicious food content, right here.