Bleeding Veggie Burger: A Love Affair

We've mentioned it before, but there's a new burger in town. The veggie burger that bleeds has taken over food blogs across the world. So as a meat lover what would it take for you to give up meat for good?

Vox's Nick Pachelli recently wrote about his tale of discovering the new meaning of vegan by swapping out his normal meat eating habits for a vegetable alternative. The inspiration for this experiment? Cutting own on the carbon footprint caused by the meat industry. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the meat industry accounts for 14.5% of the world's carbon emissions. Pachelli isn't the only one on this vegan kick, NY Times and Outside Magazine have also ventured down the vegan path, as did a reporter from Grist.

Two notable veggie burger manufacturers are Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. Currently, they are the only ones using science to replicate the finite qualities of meat. Their main target is meat eaters, and they will do anything to switch their allegiance to the vegetable.

In New York, the only place to get the Impossible burger is at Momofuku Nishi. Obviously this was Pachelli's first stop, to experience the best the vegan world can offer. While they only serve the burger for lunch, it does just satisfy all of the needs of a good burger. 

"I cut the burger in half, and the juices oozed (coconut oil). The patty is caramelized, yielding a nostalgic crunch. It’s topped with lettuce, tomato, and pickles. It tasted great, mostly due to the savory, mayonnaise-based Nishi sauce. If you separate the meat, it doesn’t taste like much. But neither does an In-N-Out patty."

Other than Momofuku, Pachelli had to rely on cooking for himself. While stores like Trader Joes and Whole Foods do offer vegan options, not every store in New York is stocked with enough variety to encourage a sustainable lifestyle. He was successful in finding the Beyond Burger in a Whole Foods in Williamsburg, but it wasn't easily found around the corner. Luckily it lives up to the expectation, “Behold the future of food.” 

"Beyond Burger succeeded in mimicking the experience of cooking any other kind of patty, whether turkey or beef, beginning to end. The patty is thicker than that of Impossible Foods, and it’s much more pungent. When it hits the hot oil, it “bleeds” beet juice just like beef would blood. After five or so minutes on each side, a nice caramelized exterior forms and it’s ready."

As with any quick change diet, it became difficult to eat the same things every day, so Pachelli got creative. He started making more salads, experiementing with different types of meat substitutes and was able to create a healthy lifestyle that didn't include meat. Pachelli's biggest insight: that we don't actually eat meat to be healthy, it's more that it's a lot more effort to cut it out than it is to continue as before.

After one month of the vegan lifestyle, Pachelli had this to say, "Cutting the amount of meat entering my body and trying to change a lifelong habit loop was difficult. Just from a textural standpoint, I quickly found myself craving the firmness of a chicken breast. I learned that most restaurants I frequent are black holes of meaty temptation with few filling alternatives. Still, there were benefits to my month of animal-free meat: I spent less money, had more energy, and felt plain healthier."

So what would it take for you to quit eating meat altogether? Better options in the grocery store? Easier access to recipes? More information on the impact it has on the environment?

Pachelli went back to Momofuku on the last day of his experiment. The waiter from his first trip asked him about the last 30 days of veganism. “Not too bad. Not too bad,” he said.

The waiter asked, “Well, are you, like, a full vegan now?”

The alternatives taste great — and they’re meant to be a starting point. There’s no cringing through the chew but rather an optimistically raised eyebrow and a nod of sufficiency. These products are, and will continue to be, engineered for us to love them, to enter our habit loops and be a savior for our climate. And I was happy to be complicit in the expanding wave of vegan and flexitarian pragmatism.

“I don’t know,” Pachelli said. “I’m certainly done with animal meat.”

“Me too,” he said.

You can read about Pachelli's entire journey here.