Why Some Vegetarians (Like Me) Aren’t Excited About Beyond, Impossible, and Other New Meatless Meats

updated Feb 7, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Let me start with the obvious: I realize that most of the new plant-based “ground beef” options are not targeted toward vegetarians like me. The Impossible Burger and its competitors are mostly meant for meat-eaters who want to cut back for various reasons. And let me also say that these companies are doing great things for the plant-based food industry. In the long term, they’ll help the environment and save countless animals from slaughter.

But, while I concede that fake meat products can really help fill in the gaps for my carnivorous friends who can’t imagine giving up burgers and chicken nuggets, I must admit that I don’t want to try the Impossible Burger or any of the other meatless options. Ever. And I know that lots of vegetarians agree with me.

My first (and most obvious) reason: Lots of these faux meats are touted as being incredibly “realistic.” In other words, they’re so similar in flavor and texture to real beef that it’s hard to tell the difference. In fact, some of these burgers even remain pink and “bleed,” just like a regular burger. But like many other vegetarians, I gave up meat because the act of eating flesh didn’t appeal to me. (No judgment if you’re a steak fan!) So it just doesn’t make sense for me to seek out a product that tastes, looks, and feels like dead cow. Moving on …

Pound for pound, it’s much more economical to eat a plant-based diet that’s based in whole foods (like beans) and minimally processed products (like tofu or tempeh). The more processing a product requires, the more consumers will pay.

Let’s do a side-by-side comparison. One of my go-to dinner options is red lentils. I use them to make curry, or blend them with sweet potato and carrot for a super-powered soup. The cost of bulk organic red lentils at my neighborhood food co-op? $1.59 per pound. The cost of 12 ounces of Impossible Burger? Most grocery retailers sell it for around $9. That comes out to $12 per pound, which is more expensive than most real ground beef.

Typically, opting for a vegetarian diet is an easy way to save money. Why gouge out your budget on a novelty product?

Finally, although we don’t cast shade over processed foods here at Kitchn, some of the ingredients in faux meat are quite literally created in a lab. I’m a firm believer in the ethos that the simpler our diets, the better we digest. When we digest better, we feel better. When we feel better, we’re more productive, happy, and vibrant. So if the day comes when I seriously crave a burger, I’m going to choose the burger with one ingredient: real beef.

What about you? Are you pro- or anti- fake meat? Tell us all about it in the comments.