Vegan burgers are here for barbecue season with plant-based patties a-plenty for grilling.
Vegan burgers are big business, with the vegan meat industry predicted to be worth a jaw-dropping $3 trillion by 2029. This mind-boggling figure was revealed by Pat Brown, founder of Impossible Foods. The multi-billion dollar company’s name is currently on everyone’s lips as its plant-based patties have slid onto US Burger King grills in the form of the new Impossible Whopper. Such was the Impossi-Whoppi’s success, that after a trial run at Burger King’s 59 St. Louis branches, the fast-food giant announced that it would be rolling out the vegan sandwich at all its US branches by the end of 2019.
Of all the vegan meat products available, from sausages to crumbles, it is burgers which have gained the most notoriety and which have flipped their way most successfully into the mainstream food market. Perhaps the biggest “veggie disc” trailblazer is the Beyond Burger, launched in May 2016 and made of pea protein isolate. In three short years, California company Beyond Meat has seen its signature “bleeding burger” be served up at 25,000 locations across the globe, including at nine US burger chains, and popular UK eateries such as Honest Burger.
Since Beyond Meat discovered that beetroot extract could be used to create an authentically oozing burger, many vegan manufacturers have jumped on bleeding burger bandwagon. Impossible Foods launched its Impossible burger made of soy and potato protein in July 2016, just two months after the Beyond burger tickled America’s tastebuds for the first time. Across the pond, UK company Moving Mountains launched its equally juicy B12 burger in late 2017 and in March 2018, freezer giant Iceland launched its “No Bull” burger. Iceland’s offering was the first bleeding vegan patty that burger fans could enjoy at home, but by August the Beyond burger had crossed the Atlantic to be picked up by Tesco shoppers.
What is more, the Beyond patties are stocked alongside the meat products, in keeping with CEO Ethan Brown’s marketing strategy for targeting meat-reducers. Research conducted by Beyond Meat in 2018 showed that 70 percent of its customers were meat eaters. This comes as no surprise as increasingly, people are turning towards plant-based diets for reasons of health, sustainability or environmental awareness. A recent study by eco-focused company Modular Classrooms revealed that 57 percent of the UK is willing to change its lifestyle to reduce climate change and protect the environment. This supports findings from The NPD Group published in 2018 which revealed that only 14 percent of the people buying plant-based items are vegan, meaning that animal-free products are gaining mass appeal.
Vegan Burgers Vs. Beef Burgers
One of the most obvious ways that vegan burgers outrank beef is by being considerably better for you. Plant-based burgers have not been made from hormone fuelled, antibiotic-pumped cows, which immediately makes them more suitable for your digestive system. But on a nutritional level, a traditional quarter-pound beef burger may contain as much as 50mg of cholesterol, while both the Impossible burger and the Beyond burger are cholesterol-free. This is not to say either vegan patty is fat-free, both contain fat due to ingredients such as coconut oil. However, plant-based fats have been shown to be made up of shorter chain lipids which the body is more likely to use as energy than store as personal padding.
Muffin tops aside, red meat such as beef is high in numerous compounds linked to health problems. In 2013, a study by the Cleveland Clinic showed links between the amino acid L-Carnitine (found in high concentrations in beef) and heart disease. Beef is also high in bad cholesterol which is linked to conditions such as stroke and type 2 diabetes. Perhaps the greatest cause for concern surrounding beef is that in 2015, the World Health Organization classified processed meat as a group 1 carcinogen. This means it definitely causes cancer in some subjects, while red meat was classified as a probable carcinogen. These findings were confirmed by an extensive research project involving 22 experts reviewing over 800 studies.
It is no secret that growing plants uses fewer resources than rearing meat, but the massive difference between the two will probably come as a shock to many people. In 2018, the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Resources compared the Beyond burger to its cow counterpart and revealed that producing the vegan patty generated 90 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the beef round. Furthermore, Beyond’s offering required 46 percent less energy and 93 percent less land to produce.
Most strikingly, the animal-free burger used only one percent of the water that the beef burger required. This is most often because cows drink a great deal of water, up to 30 gallons per day, meaning a single beef patty can take up to 2,500 liters of water to produce. In March 2019, UN Environment launched a series of infographics about water usage in animal agriculture to encourage people to reduce their meat consumption. This is part of the body’s global #SolveDifferent campaign.
As well as dramatically reducing water consumption and ozone-depleting greenhouse gas emissions, repurposing land for arable agriculture could yield almost twenty times as much food as is currently produced. A 2018 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America concluded that by adopting plant-based lifestyles, the US could feed an additional 350 million people.
“Concurrently replacing all animal-based items in the US diet with plant-based alternatives will add enough food to feed, in full, 350 million additional people, well above the expected benefits of eliminating all supply chain food waste,” the study stated. “These results highlight the importance of dietary shifts to improving food availability and security.”
At present, around 75 percent of the world’s soy crops are fed to livestock being reared for meat, and the land required for growing the crops is a major cause of deforestation in areas such as South America. If we were to simply cut out the animal agriculture aspect, the soy could be fed directly to the world’s growing population.
As well as being more energy efficient and greener, plant-based nutrition is also cheaper than animal products in most cases. This is undeniably the case in terms of protein-rich whole-foods such as lentils, nuts, and barley. Up until now, manufactured plant-based products such as vegan cheese and vegan meats have been more costly due to the incurred development costs and having limited mainstream appeal. However, with the growing demand for plant-based foods making them less of a niche product, commercial vegan products are also set to become cheaper. To this end, Beyond Meat founder Ethan Brown said in a statement:
“We’ve long had our eye on creating a product that enables consumers to enjoy all the benefits and versatility of ground beef while tapping into the human health, environmental, and animal welfare benefits of plant-based foods.”
With summer just around the corner, vegan burgers are about to have their moment in the sun (literally.) For many cookout enthusiasts, the scent of freshly cut grass and the gentle murmur of bees is the signal to let grilling commence. Perhaps it’s our primal attraction to the flickering flames, but the hot weather does seem to inspire our inner cave-dwellers and barbecues are beckoning. As anyone who has ever attended a garden grilling will attest to, within minutes of setting the charcoal bricks alight, a cluster of homosapiens will have surrounded the grill to give their utmost attention to the frying foodstuffs.
Of course, there are a variety of plant-based foods one can plonk on the barbie, from corn cobs to vegetable kebabs, but for many people it is the humble burger which defines a barbecue’s success. We’ve come up with a guide to the nine best vegan burgers to make your barbecue go with a bang.
The Best Vegan Burgers for Grilling
1. The Beyond Burger
Not just available at restaurants, the Beyond burger is also stocked at stores throughout the US including at Target, Walmart, and Safeway. The patty is made of pea protein isolate which affords it an impressive 20 grams of protein. As tens of millions of dollars have been spent perfecting the recipe and making it as close to beef in texture, mouthfeel, and of course taste, the patty performs well on the barbecue, holding its shape and absorbing the smoky flavors of the grill.
Find it here.
2. Amy’s Sonoma Veggie Burger
This offering from California company Amy’s Kitchen is made from wholesome ingredients such as quinoa and walnuts. This burger is a slight departure for the company, as it doesn’t make many vegan meat products, but even Amy’s Kitchen must recognise the call of the grill. The burgers have an enjoyable, chewy texture and cook fine on the barbecue, but benefit from some condiments and plant-based cheese.
Find it here.
3. Don Lee Farms Plant-Based Burger
Family company Don Lee Farms offers a variety of vegan products, but its “bleeding burger” entered the record books in 2019 when it sold over a million patties within the first 60 days of being launched at Costco. Now preparing to expand into 15 countries, the vegan patty is made of soy flour, cornstarch and beet powder among other things, and provides 15 grams of protein. The packaging advises coating the grill with olive oil before putting the burgers on to sizzle.
Find it here.
4. Boca Original Turk’y Veggie Burgers
Florida based company Boca has been serving up veggie burgers and plant-based products since 1979, and its vegan turk’y patty is made of GMO-free soy and flavored with yeast extract. This old-school patty picks up the flame-grilled smokiness well and is a sturdy snack.
Find it here.
5. Moving Mountains Bleeding B12 Burgers
This meaty burger is uniquely bursting with a hefty dose of B12. It’ll sizzle and pop in the pan or on the grill. Made with beans, mushrooms, wheat, oats, and coconut oil, the burger gets its bleeding pink color from beets. Its been a hit in the UK and is now about to make its way to US retailers.
Find it here.
6. Field Roast’s Hand-Formed Field Burger
Breaking with tradition, this Field Roast patty is made from barley and was designed specifically with the grill in mind. Containing visible chunks of celery and carrot, the Field burger has plenty of taste and is ideal for people who want a hearty sandwich but aren’t keen on plant-based meats.
Find it here.
7. Morningstar Farm’s Meat Lover’s Vegan Burger
Originally started as a vegetarian company in 1975, Morningstar Farms recently announced its plan to make its entire range vegan by 2021. This soya patty provides the eater with an impressive 27 grams of plant-protein and plenty of juicy goodness. The manufacturer recommends cooking the burger on the grill to bring out the flavor and sear the outside.
Find it here.
8. Gardein’s Ultimate Beefless Burger
Made of soy protein and grains, this patty is lower fat than many of its contenders and is particularly well suited to being grilled. The inclusion of ingredients such as potato starch means it holds its shape well and the various seasonings are brought out during the cooking process.
Find it here.
9. Bahama Rice Burger
Made by Morinibrands, this patty is made of the company’s signature rice-protein called “Risofu.” The patty is low fat, soy-free and wholegrain. This burger has a subtle flavor and a fleshy texture, which crisps up well when grilled.
Find it here.