We tried it: is the vegan Beyond Meat burger as good as the real deal?

Meat lover Sanet Oberholzer tries the plant-based burger vegans have been raving about

27 June 2019 - 00:00 By Sanet Oberholzer
The Beyond Meat burger comes pretty close to the real deal.
The Beyond Meat burger comes pretty close to the real deal.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer

My burger arrives and despite the lingering suspicions I’ve been harbouring I must admit: if it weren’t for the little flag hoisted directly into the golden brown bun I would not have guessed that this was a vegan patty beneath the tomato relish, caramelised onion and gooey melted cheese.

The Beyond Meat burger has been all the rage since it was first introduced in SA at the end of last year. It is produced in the US and distributed in Africa by Infinite Foods, the company which listed on the Nasdaq at the beginning of May. Restaurants that stock the meatless option have reported that it’s a firm favourite among vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

On their website, Beyond Meat claims it’s the world’s first plant-based burger that looks, cooks and satisfies like beef. It is crafted using a base of pea protein, yeast extract and coconut oil and doesn’t contain nasty genetically modified organisms and gluten. It even “bleeds” like beef thanks to the use of beets in the patty.

The Beyond Meat burger even 'bleeds' like beef thanks to the use of beets in the patty

Curious to try this marvel for myself, I headed to Hudsons in Parkhurst to sample it. I order The Cheese and substitute the beef patty for a Beyond Meat patty at an additional R35, bringing the cost of the burger to R106 without any sides.

The Beyond Meat patty does resemble a meat patty quite closely. Brownish pink in colour, it does perhaps lack that browned grilled beef look.

As for taste, this is the most surprising factor. It actually comes very close to tasting like a beef burger patty! It has a smoky, grilled flavour, but somehow you do get an artificial, constructed taste – especially in the aftertaste that seems to linger in your mouth for some time after eating it.

While it doesn’t quite bleed like a medium rare patty will, it has a pink colour to it and I will applaud Beyond Meat for their crafty use of beet in this regard. When bitten into, it looks very much like a lump of minced meat cooked together but the texture does differ to a 100% pure beef patty.

Beyond Meat boasts that its burger patty uses 11% less water than a traditional 113g beef burger, uses 46% less energy and produces 90% fewer greenhouse gasses. These are some impressive statistics when looking at the meat industry overall.

The basic demand-and-supply theory around meat is turning into an unsustainable mess. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the world’s population is likely to increase by 35% by the year 2050. 

If we are to sustain our meat consumption at this rate, meat production will need to rise by more than 200 million tons in an environment that is already strained and struggling to keep up with demand. For this reason, the need to replace our reliance on animal protein is increasingly being seen as the most sustainable alternative to deal with this crisis. 

In this context, Beyond Meat offers alternatives for vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters who may be looking at a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. While their product isn’t 100% the real deal, it does come pretty close and while you’ll be forking out a bit more for a Beyond Meat patty, it does offer a close-second option, even if only for an occasional treat.

• The Beyond Meat burger patty has been distributed to a number of restaurants around SA. This includes Hudsons outlets across the country, Easy Tiger and Melkbos Kitchen in Cape Town, Honest Food and Kaylees Eatery in Johannesburg and Lucky Rodrigo in Pretoria, to name a few.