For “Meatless Monday,” during the schoolwide Earth Week, the Stufac served Beyond Burgers, plant-based burger patties that are intended to have the same texture and flavor as traditional hamburgers. Since they are meat-free, Beyond Burgers are much more environmentally friendly as they produce 90% fewer fossil fuels than the average beef patty, and require much less water to make. A combination of faculty and students were surveyed on how they felt about the Beyond Burger, and it proved to be a success. Out of the 62 people surveyed, 72.6% said that they enjoyed the Beyond Burger, and 76.7% claimed that they would eat it again. Many agree that the Beyond Burger has a similar taste and texture to that of a red meat patty, and they appreciate that it has less impact on the environment. “It tasted like real beef and is better for the environment,” says one student. “[A] satisfying […] sustainable burger substitute” is how another described the Beyond Burger. In fact, on a scale of one to ten (with one being disgusting and ten being delicious) based solely on taste, 78.7% of those surveyed gave the burger a rating of above five. John McGarry says that he “loves the Beyond Burger,” and believes that it is better than red meat for “nutritional and environmental reasons, as well as resource allocation and management.”
In addition to being vegetarian, the Beyond Burger contains no genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), nor soy and gluten, and contains 20 grams of protein derived from plants. This leads many consumers, including those from CA, to believe that the Beyond Burger is much healthier than a hamburger. “I felt healthy,” one of the people surveyed responded, while another described it as “a super yummy, wise, nutritious alternative.” However, the Beyond Burger may not be not as nutritious of a choice as it appears to be. Liam O’Brien ‘23 chose not to have a Beyond Burger in the Stufac after hearing about them on the radio. Through this radio show, he learned that “the Beyond Burger is made of chemicals and very disgusting.” He was afraid that these chemicals would make him sick, and he says that “when I talked to my friend two hours after eating the Beyond Burger, and they felt very sick,” which confirmed his worries. Jonathan Smith, who also believes that the Beyond Burger is not as healthy of an option, says that he “prefers vegan/veggie burgers to be made with fewer processed ingredients. Mushrooms, rice, carrots, etc. as the main ingredients are less processed and are preferable to me. If this experiment with the Beyond Burger is the gateway to a more plant-based cafeteria, then I’m all for it, but we need to be aware that there are healthier options out there.” Smith and Liam are both right in that the Beyond Burger is no better than a regular hamburger from a health standpoint. For starters, there are no unprocessed vegetables in the burger patty. Many of its primary ingredients, such as pea protein isolate and refined coconut oil, are heavily processed, and some, such as canola oil, are very high in sodium and saturated fats. A single Beyond Burger has 390 milligrams of sodium, compared to the 77 grams in a regular red meat patty, and both hamburgers and Beyond Burgers contain six grams of saturated fat, which is almost 50% of the recommended daily intake by the American Heart Association. Excess sodium can cause a harmful rise in a person’s blood pressure, while saturated fats can cause a build-up of LDL (bad) cholesterol, which drastically increases a person’s risk of heart problems and strokes. Therefore, the Beyond Burger contains many ingredients that can lead to harmful effects on a person’s health and is no more nutritious than a regular hamburger.
However, it is perfectly fine for people to eat a Beyond Burger every once in a while, but these burgers should not be eaten frequently. If someone is looking for a healthier alternative to meat, the Beyond Burger is not what they are looking for. They should instead turn to burger substitutes made out of less processed ingredients, like those Jonathan listed. Although they have a very different taste and texture than the traditional hamburger, they are much better for the health of their consumers.