Plant-Based Proteins on the Rise, Plus DIY Beet Burger Recipe


Beyond Burger from Beyond Foods

You hear the grill sizzle and your eyes and taste buds are drawn to what appears to be the expected ground beef burger. Or is it? Increasingly, plant-based meat alternatives are popping up in the supermarket and at restaurants, helping propel vegetarian and vegan choices more mainstream. 

You could readily see and taste this trend at the 2019 National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, the place to explore everything that’s happening in the industry, from equipment, food and beverage products, and even technology. My husband, photographer John Ivanko, and I attend this show annually to experience what’s hot and up-and-coming in the food scene. Plant-based proteins were already evident at the show when we covered this trend in 2018 and 2017. Today, more companies than ever before are providing vegetable-based alternatives to everything from beef to eggs to eel that might be used in sushi.

Plant-based protein options on the menu give diners an eco-friendly substitute that champions sustainability and mitigates climate change. By simply reducing our animal-based meat consumption, particularly the industrial, large-scale meat most commonly available, we tread lighter on the Earth. 

According to studies conducted by the University of California, Davis, it’s much more energy efficient and cost-effective to eat plant-based foods than animal products. From a greenhouse gas emissions perspective, it’s better for the environment to eat plant-based foods because water use decreases significantly. It takes anywhere between 2,000 and 8,000 gallons of water to produce a pound of commercial beef, with much of this water used to irrigate crops that are harvested to feed the cows.

Interestingly, meat lovers are fueling this growth in plant-based proteins. A growing number of meat eaters identify themselves as “flexitarian” and seek out vegetable-based alternatives like Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger. Both Impossible Foods and Beyond Foods were recipients of the 2019 National Restaurant Show’s Food and Beverage Innovations (FABI) Award. Don’t think this is some niche fad: Beyond Foods, the parent company of Beyond Burger, went public in May, 2019, and was considered one of the best performing initial public offering in nearly twenty years. A key to their success and widespread acceptance is that these meat alternatives taste and cook just like a meat-based burger. Even die-hard meat lovers remain impressed and Beyond Burger is now a limited-time option at many Carl’s Jr restaurants. And Burger King is testing out Impossible Burgers at select locations.

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