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Consumer Reports: Meat gets a makeover

Posted at 4:00 AM, Sep 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-13 09:32:54-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - It’s the ultimate burger showdown: meatless burgers that is. Both contenders are plant-based. The Beyond Burger gets its 20 grams of protein from peas, mung beans and rice, it’s fat from canola and coconut oils, and uses beets and pomegranates to provide meat-like redness. In the other corner, the Impossible Burger gets its 19 grams of protein from soy and potato - And its fat from a mix of coconut and sunflower oils.

First up: how do these meatless burgers taste?

"Well, both the burgers were impressive imitators of meat," says Consumer Reports Nutritionist, Amy Keating. But the Impossible Burger was that much closer to a mimic of real meat, because of the taste and appearance."

Because both burgers are plant-based, you might think they are healthier than an actual burger.

“But that’s not necessarily the case," says Keating. "Both burgers have ultra-processed ingredients like soy concentrates, isolates, oils, flavors. And they have similar amounts of saturated fat but much more sodium than regular beef.”

And there’s also the unknown about an ingredient called soy leghemoglobin, a compound found in the Impossible Burger that gives it some of the taste, texture and juicy, bloody look of real beef.

"We’ve never eaten soy leghemoglobin before and scientists just don’t know enough about it yet. Is it safe? Maybe. But without additional research, we don’t know for sure," says Keating.

In response to CR’s concerns about soy leghemoglobin, Impossible foods responded, saying all the studies we did indicated that there was no risk of allergenicity or toxicity.

If you are looking for a healthier meatless burger made with whole food ingredients, CR’s tasters also tried Amy’s California Veggie Burger, which did well in CR’s previous tests, and unlike the Beyond and Impossible Burgers, doesn’t try to taste exactly like meat, and it has less sodium, fat, calories and fewer highly-processed ingredients too.

Both Beyond and Impossible Burger also claim to be better for the environment than meat from cows in conventional feedlots. And while that may be true, CR points out that eating grass-fed animals raised on sustainable farms may also be beneficial for the environment.