Fake Meat vs. Real Meat

Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat say the building blocks of their burgers are plants. The Beyond Burger has about 18 ingredients, including purified pea protein, coconut and canola oils, rice protein, potato starch and beet juice extract for coloring. Beyond Meat says it uses no genetically modified or artificially produced ingredients.

The Impossible Burger is made with similar basic ingredients but it gets its protein largely from soy and potato, and it uses an iron-containing compound from soy called heme to enhance the burger’s meaty flavor. Both products use methylcellulose, a plant derivative commonly used in sauces and ice cream, as a binder.

Compared to a beef patty, the Impossible and Beyond burgers have similar amounts of protein and calories, with less saturated fat and no cholesterol. They also contain fiber; real meat does not. But compared to real beef, the two plant-based burgers are considerably higher in sodium, containing about 16 percent of the recommended daily value. An uncooked four-ounce beef patty has about 75 milligrams of sodium, compared to 370 milligrams of sodium in the Impossible Burger and 390 milligrams in the Beyond Burger.

Credit…Ben Margot/Associated Press

This fall, Burger King said it had its most successful quarter in four years, driven by sales of its plant-based Impossible Whopper. Dunkin’ Donuts announced it was rolling out a breakfast sandwich made with Beyond Meat sausages in 9,000 of its stores after a successful trial run in New York City. More than 50,000 grocery stores and restaurants, including fast food chains like Subway, White Castle, KFC and Carl’s Jr., carry products from Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods.

Despite the popularity of plant-based burgers, beef burgers are still overwhelmingly the more popular choice at restaurants. Americans purchased 6.4 billion beef burgers at quick service restaurants during the 12 months that ended in May, compared to 228 million plant-based burgers in the same period.

While meat consumption in America is at an all-time high, many Americans have shifted from eating beef to poultry. In the past three decades, beef intake has fallen by about a third, while chicken intake has more than doubled and pork intake has remained fairly steady. Studies show that cost, convenience and health concerns are among the top reasons Americans have cut back on beef.

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