I (Marianna) recently visited one of my best friends over the weekend; she truly is chicken soup for my soul and also happens to be vegan! One of the things I love most about her is that she's willing to have an open and honest conversation about pretty much anything, and that includes her vegan choices and motivations behind them. My mom and I already try to incorporate as many plants into our meals as possible, and we rarely eat red meat, but my friend inspired me and I decided I could be doing better! Even though I don't think I'll ever be fully vegan or vegetarian, I'm trying to follow a vegetarian diet during the workweek, so my mom and I went to the grocery store and decided it was a perfect time to try some meatless meats.
We’ve been eating veggie burgers for decades. Traditionally they've been made out of black beans, grains, or (our favorite) portobello mushrooms. Now there's a new option available at grocery stores; it's a plant-based burger that's marketed as an environmentally friendly option to the American culinary staple.
We bought Beyond Meat's Beyond Burger™, which has 20 grams of plant protein per serving, and the Boca Original Veggie Crumbles with 11 grams of protein per serving. Boca has been available for years, and we wanted to have it as a comparison to the new plant-based option to see how far we've traveled down the meatless meat path.
Beyond Meat, which manufactures the Beyond Burger, has set some important goals for themselves in their mission statement. “By shifting from animal, to plant-based meat, we are creating one savory solution that solves four growing issues attributed to livestock production: human health, climate change, constraints on natural resources and animal welfare.” We’re behind all four of these important goals, and it’s no secret that we all need to make changes in our lives that will help reverse the climate crisis.
One of the easiest and most impactful changes each person can make to improve the health of our planet is by shifting from a meat-centric diet to one that is rich in plants.
The Beyond Meat website goes even further and provides some staggering statistics. “A peer-reviewed Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) conducted by the University of Michigan compared the environmental impact of The Beyond Burger to a ¼ lb. U.S. beef burger. The study concluded that The Burger uses” 99% less water, 93% less land, generated 90% fewer Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGE), and required 46% less energy than a beef burger.
That is great news and we want really wanted to LOVE this burger, but unfortunately we didn’t. We tasted the patty by itself, and it was fine but left us wanting more. We’re sure it would be much better with all of the traditional hamburger fixings added, but we would still prefer an unprocessed, juicy and delicious portobello burger. Unfortunately, the Beyond Burger is highly processed and is high in saturated fats and sodium. It’s good for the health of our planet but doesn't seem too great for human health.
The Original Veggie Boca Crumbles on the other hand, were a hit! This option resembles ground meat, and instead of forming it into a patty we browned it in a skillet and made a delicious pasta dish. Although the Boca Crumbles were quite bland by themselves, once they were in the pasta sauce we really couldn't tell the difference between the plant-based crumbles and a traditional ground beef bolognese sauce. We also think these crumbles would be delicious in tacos, so we're going to give that recipe a try sometime.
We think it's great to have some meatless options in case you're craving a meat fix, but the new plant-based burger didn't propel us further down the meatless hamburger path, and we learned that it's key to dress the Boca Crumbles up a bit. However, we still believe it's best for the planet and our health to eat plant-based food that is locally grown and not highly processed.