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To Beef, Or Not To Beef? The Rise Of Meatless Burgers

An Original Impossible Burger, left, and a Cali Burger, from Umami Burger, are shown in this photo in New York, Friday, May 3, 2019. (Richard Drew/AP)
An Original Impossible Burger, left, and a Cali Burger, from Umami Burger, are shown in this photo in New York, Friday, May 3, 2019. (Richard Drew/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Meat-free burgers are sweeping the nation. Are they healthier or better for the planet? We ask.


Michael Grunwald, senior staff writer for Politico Magazine. Editor-at-large of The Agenda. Author of “The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era.” (@MikeGrunwald)

Kelsey Mangano, nutrition program director and professor of biomedical and nutritional sciences at University of Massachusetts Lowell. (@ManganoKelsey)

Will Schafer, vice president of marketing for Beyond Meat. (@BeyondMeat)

The Beyond Burgers From The On Point Kitchen


The Beyond Meat Burger we purchased and ate contains 20 grams of plant protein per serving. Here are some other nutritional facts, per serving (one patty):

  • 270 calories
  • 20 grams of fat
  • 5 grams of saturated fat
  • 0 grams of trans fat
  • 0 milligrams of cholesterol
  • 380 milligrams of sodium
  • 340 milligrams of potassium
  • 5 grams of total carbohydrates
  • 3 grams of dietary fiber

Beyond Meat also has a new burger product out, the “New, Meatier Beyond Burger.” The company says it “features a meatier taste and texture as a result of blended pea, mung bean and rice proteins in addition to marbling designed to melt and tenderize like traditional ground beef.”

Here are the nutritional facts for the new product, per serving:

  • 20 grams of plant-based protein
  • 250 calories
  • 18 grams of total fat
  • 6 grams of saturated fat
  • 0 grams of trans fat
  • 0 milligrams of cholesterol
  • 390 milligrams of sodium
  • 300 milligrams of potassium
  • 3 grams of total carbohydrates
  • 2 grams of dietary fiber
  • 0 grams of sugar

For more on Beyond Meat’s burger, visit the company’s product fact sheet.

From The Reading List

Politico: “Inside the Race to Build the Burger of the Future” — “Politicians often rally their supporters with partisan red meat, but these days Republicans are using actual red meat. They’re accusing Democrats of a plot to ban beef, trying to rebrand the ‘Green New Deal’ for climate action as a nanny-state assault on the American diet. At Thursday’s rally in Michigan, President Donald Trump portrayed a green dystopia with ‘no more cows.’ In a recent Washington speech, former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka warned conservatives that leftists are coming for their hamburgers: ‘This is what Stalin dreamt about, but never achieved!’ Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) actually ate a burger during a press conference on Capitol Hill, an activity he claimed would be illegal under a Green New Deal.

“In reality, nobody’s banning beef. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the driving force behind the Green New Deal, really did suggest that ‘maybe we shouldn’t be eating a hamburger for breakfast, lunch and dinner,’ and her office did release (and then retract) a fact sheet implying a desire to ‘get rid of farting cows.’ A lot of environmental activists really do target red meat, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) , a vegan who hopes to replace Trump, really did recently observe that ‘this planet simply can’t sustain billions of people consuming industrially produced animal agriculture.’ But the actual Green New Deal resolution calls only for dramatic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. It says nothing about seizing steaks, and no Democrats are pushing to confiscate cows regardless of their tailpipe emissions.

“This Washington stir over the burger police is classic political theater, the latest tribal skirmish in America’s partisan culture wars. But livestock really do have a serious impact on the climate—and the extreme rhetoric about cow farts and rounding up ranchers is obscuring a consequential debate over the future of animal agriculture in general and beef in particular. Red meat has a greater impact on the climate than any other food; if the world’s cattle formed their own nation, it would have the third-highest emissions on Earth, behind only China and the United States. So at a time when concerns are already growing about meat’s effects on human health and the treatment of animals on factory farms, the U.S. meat industry is taking the global warming debate seriously. It’s talking up its own climate progress, while trying to ensure that any Green New Deal-style government efforts to cut agricultural emissions use financial carrots rather than regulatory sticks or even meat taxes.

“Meat is as central to American culture as cars or sports; the average American eats three burgers a week, and even more chicken than beef. But this is a delicate time for the industry. The influential EAT-Lancet Commission study recently warned that Western diets include far too much meat, and more than half of Americans say they’re trying to cut back. New York City’s schools just adopted Meatless Mondays, while fast-growing companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are selling plant-based burgers and other products that taste, look and even feel remarkably similar to conventional meat; starting Monday, Burger King is going to start selling beef-free Impossible Whoppers. The meat lobby is also increasingly nervous about ‘fake meat,’ its term of art for cell-based meat startups that are not even selling to the public yet, but are already producing meat in laboratories that’s molecularly identical to the stuff in supermarkets without raising or killing animals.”

New York Times: “Opinion: Fake Meat Will Save Us” — “I plopped down in the sports bar Thursday to watch World Cup soccer and eat my first fake meat burger. I don’t mean to slight the surging United States women’s team, but the plant-based protein slab made nearly as big an impression as the match.

“No surprise then, that a burger that bleeds like meat, tastes like meat and looks like meat is winning over millions of skeptical consumers, taking Wall Street by storm and prompting Big Ag to jump into a lucrative business that started on the vegan fringe.

“But does the world really need a KFC Imposter Burger, or Tyson Foods grinding peas into patties instead of quartering chickens into nuggets? Well, yes. Very much so.

“At a moment when animal-based agriculture is near the top of planet-killing culprits, ditching meat for substitutes, faux or otherwise, is the most effective thing an individual can do to fight climate change, according to a study in the journal Science. I say this as an appreciative omnivore. I love a flank steak fresh off the grill, a leg of lamb seasoned and slow-cooked, a brat at a ballpark, as do most of us. Vegans and vegetarians make only about 8 percent of the population, a static number.”

New Republic: “The Promise and Problem of Fake Meat” — “We have a meat problem. It’s a key driver of the climate crisis, drinking water pollution, and land overuse. And excessive consumption of factory-raised and processed meat increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

“You probably know all this, but you still eat meat. Most of us do. Why is that?

“According to the psychological theory of cognitive dissonance, humans experience extreme stress when there is an inconsistency between our beliefs (‘Meat-eating is bad’) and our behaviors (‘I like eating meat’). Our brains resolve the dissonance by altering either our beliefs or our behavior. ‘It is most likely that the attitude will change to accommodate the behavior,’ Leon Festinger, the theory’s originator, once wrote. So most humans, even those who know that meat-eating is bad, make excuses for their behavior rather than adhering to their beliefs and giving up meat.

“That’s a problem for our personal health, and that of the planet. But what if we could have it both ways? What if we could eat meat without the consequences?

“That’s the big idea behind Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. The competing food companies, which have grown rapidly over the past year, might be famous for creating vegetarian burgers that look, taste, and bleed like beef. But that’s not all they’re trying to do. They’re also trying to change the world by changing what society believes meat to be. In a way, it’s a scientific solution to the cognitive dissonance of eating meat.”

Anna Bauman produced this hour for broadcast.

This article was originally published on

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