Tasting the Future: the Beyond Burger

It was a long day.

All I wanted to do was eat.

Did I really want to go home and cook? Not at all.

What could I eat instead? Pizza? Another sandwich? None of these sounded too appetizing.

But then I remembered.

The Beyond Burger just released at A&W restaurants across Canada. This sounded like an adventure worth the detour. It was time to taste the future of food.

Beyond Meat and the Beyond Burger

Beyond Meat was founded in 2009 by Ethan Brown. Having learned about the large role that animal products like meat contribute to climate change, Brown left the energy sector to find a solution. And his team did: the Beyond Burger.

The Beyond Burger is a plant-based meat burger that is meant to be like meat in every way. Even its taste and texture. To make their plant-based meats, Beyond Meat uses a technical produces that alters plant proteins to take on the muscular shape of meat. This means that Brown and his team could take pea protein and, through a process of pressure, heating, and cooling, change the shape and texture of pea protein into meat like fibres. When Bill Gates (an investor in both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods) tried Beyond Meat’s chicken-free strips, he commented that he could not tell the difference between the actual chicken strip and the chicken-free strip.

And now it was my turn to try the Beyond Burger. Will I be able to tell the difference?

Tasting the Future

It was no secret that A&W was serving the Beyond Burger. From the moment you entered the restaurant, there were posters and signs everywhere about their new Beyond Meat Burger. And why wouldn’t they be excited? A&W Canada is the first restaurant chain in Canada to serve the Beyond Burger. Everyone in line before and after were also ordering the Beyond Burger. We all had to know how it tasted.

When it was my turn to order, I was asked if I wanted mine with or without cheese to make it vegan (the A&W sauces also had to be removed to make the burger vegan-friendly). I previously tried the Impossible Burger with cheese, so I chose not to add cheese to this one. When I tried the Impossible Burger, I thought it was very similar to meat (albeit slightly dry). Let’s see how the Beyond Burger is prepared.

When my order was ready, it looked just like any other A&W burger (besides the obvious advertising on its wrapping, of course). Appetizing and delicious.

I tasted the burger. There was a genuine, meaty taste and texture to the burger. Was this the result of making plant protein into muscle fibres? My appetite took over.

I was nearly finished when I noticed something. There was a sweet (and tangy) taste. This is unusual for a burger. Was it coming from the Beyond Meat patty, or from the A&W sauces in the burger?

I removed the patty from the burger and tried it separately. Relief. The sweetness was coming from the other ingredients in the burger. The idea that I thought the sweet flavour was coming from the Beyond Burger patty goes to show how well it and all the flavours blended together.

When I tried the Beyond Burger patty by itself, it wasn’t indistinguishable from a normal meat yet. Yet, when combined with the other ingredients of the burger, I would not have been able to tell the different. The Beyond Burger just tasted like another A&W’s burger. Using only plants.

Conclusion

In January 2018, the Beyond Burger became the fastest test-to-table menu offering in restaurant chain TGI Friday’s history. After trying the Beyond Burger, it’s not hard to see why. The Beyond Burger is the only plant-based meat that is sold in the meat aisle in over 5,000 grocery stores in the United States. With plans of international expansion, Beyond Meat recently announced that they plan to open a second production facility to keep up with demand.

Beyond Meats has created a product that cooks like meat, smells like meat, and tastes like meat. Entirely from plants. While not cellular agriculture, the successful rise of plant-based meat alternatives is a positive sign that people will embrace alternatives to conventional animal products that provide a more sustainable and environmentally friendly option. In the end, both cellular agriculture and plant-based meats are working towards the same goal: a healthy and sustainable source of animal products.