Carnivores look out: plant-based burger imitates real meat flavor

Elizabeth Johnson | Banner | Ray Curran, sophomore civil engineering major, does a blindfolded comparative taste test of traditional ground beef burgers and Beyond Meat, a plant-based, gluten, soy and GMO-free meat alternative.

To infinity and beyond — meat? Beyond Meat, a company based in El Segundo, Calif., is making plant-based, gluten, soy and GMO -free “meat” products for everyone to enjoy while attempting to make the world a healthier place for both animals and people.

According to Beyond Meat, its products are the “future of protein.” Beyond Meat produces “chicken strips, hamburger patties, sausages and beef crumbles,” and instead of having to go on a treasure hunt to get them in smaller stores they are available in super markets.

They can now be found in many local stores, such as Stater Bros., Vons, Target, and restaurants such as Carl’s Junior and Del Taco and even at the Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

One of Beyond Meat’s most serious competitors is a company named Impossible Foods, which claims to make a burger that can fool tastebuds into thinking their “burger” is the real thing — beef.

Similar to Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat claims on its web- site that the Beyond Burger “looks, cooks and satisfies like beef.” There is only one way to fact-check Beyond Meat’s claim though: by cooking its “burger” and eating it.

To see how true Beyond Meat’s claim really is, California Baptist University tested the theory with students Ray Curran, sophomore civil engineer- ing major; Kristin Boyd, senior photography major; Jack Bramlett, sophomore communication studies major; and Riley Evans, junior business administration major, on Jan. 19 to conduct a blindfolded, comparative taste test between Beyond Meat burgers and traditional ground beef burgers.

It was an overcast day. Uni- versity Place’s grill was fired up and the grilling began. The participants were skeptical and anxious. Twenty minutes later, the Beyond Meat burgers were ready, along with the ground- beef burgers.

The participants were each blindfolded and handed a plate with samples of each burger to test their identification skills of both types of meat.

The mystery was soon gone with the wind, like the aroma of the burgers.

“That is definitely not beef,” said Evans in response to eating the Beyond Beef burger.

“Oh yeah, that’s beef,” said Boyd after eating the ground -beef patty. None of the participants were fooled by Beyond Meat’s charms of persuasion. Curran immediately knew he had tasted the real deal.

“It tasted like beef because it was beef.” Curran said. “I actually liked the veggie burger. It had a savory flavor with spices mixed into it but it wouldn’t be my first choice over beef.”

With the results in, the question of why vegan companies are striving to replicate meat’s taste needed to be answered, and Rasmi Little, manager of Riverside’s vegan restaurant, Monty’s Good Burger, offered her opinion.

“People are trying to replicate (beef’s taste) enough to teach people that you don’t have to eat meat to get this juicy, wonderful burger. You can use plant products,” Little said.

As to when vegan meats will blur the line between their competitor in taste, only future versions of vegan and vegetarian burgers will tell.

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