The future of healthier meat is available right here in Warwick, and it’s made of...peas?
More than seven years in the making, The Beyond Burger is here and is now available at just six restaurants in New England. The only place to get one while out to eat in Rhode Island currently is TGI Fridays on Centerville Road in Warwick, but only for a limited time.
Anybody who enjoys a good beef burger every now and then understands the conundrum. You know that eating too much beef is bad for your heart, you know that it often makes you feel bloated and uncomfortable and it is becoming more apparent that the large-scale factory farming that is required to feed our beef needs is inhumane to cows and is causing serious detrimental effects to the planet.
All of that is bad. But humans have been eating meat since we hunted mammoths with pointed sticks, and that instinct isn’t vanishing overnight. To date, it has been a nigh impossible task to find a burger alternative that doesn’t taste either like a stale piece of Styrofoam or a seasoned hockey puck.
Sorry tofu burgers, sorry quinoa burgers and sorry sweet potato burgers, but it is readily apparent to actual meat eaters what you are not. And you are not the burger alternative that will subvert a true burger lover’s desire for a fresh, hot patty of cooked beef.
All of that, however, seems poised to change. As skeptical as this writer was heading into a tasting of the new Beyond Burger – a plant-based burger made 100 percent free of beef or any other kind of animal meat – that skepticism is now gone. I have witnessed and tasted, firsthand, the future of healthier, vegetarian eating.
“The Beyond Burger looks, cooks and satisfies like traditional meat, and was the first plant-based burger to be sold in the meat case at grocery stores,” said Beyond Burger creator Ethan Brown via email. “Unlike most other plant-based burgers, The Beyond Burger is made with pea protein, and contains no gluten, soy or GMO ingredients.”
As many times as you may have heard an iteration of that statement in the past, this is no simple gimmick. The burger looks a little off from what a regular burger looks like – it’s more perfectly disc-shaped than any real burger – which may throw you at first. However upon a smell test, the senses are immediately confused. It truly does smell like a regular, grilled beef burger.
Upon the first bite, the senses go into full-blown bewilderment. It chews like a perfectly tender piece of meat and its taste is something that a written paragraph can never convey. It doesn’t taste exactly like beef, but it is so emphatically close that your taste buds truly don’t seem to know how to process the difference. You immediately crave another bite to see if it was a fluke, but the taste persists throughout the whole meal.
“The response by consumers to The Beyond Burger has been overwhelmingly positive, and we continue to scale up our production to meet this rapidly increasing demand,” said Brown, who reported that the Beyond Burger is currently in a soft launch testing phase partnership with TGI Fridays, available at six of their restaurants in New England, including North Dartmouth, Mansfield, North Attleboro, Seekonk and Taunton, Massachusetts locations and the lone Rhode Island location in Warwick.
“Our decision to partner with TGI Fridays, an iconic staple in the American dining landscape known for their hearty comfort fare, stemmed from our desire to make plant-based protein accessible to more consumers,” Brown said. “According to a recent NPD [Group] Study, 70 percent of meat eaters are substituting a non-meat protein in a meal at least once a week and 22 percent say they are doing it more often than a year ago.”
The Beyond Burger comes in a 6 oz. patty with all the fixings of a regular burger at TGI Fridays – seasoned and grilled with white cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, pickles and their special sauce on a challah bun. It has 30 grams of plant-based protein, which is more protein than in a traditional beef burger. It also has less fat and zero cholesterol, making it unanimously healthier than beef burgers.
At the same time, Brown makes it a point of pride that the Beyond Burger is sold alongside real meat in the nearly 3,000 supermarkets where it already resides, including 25 Whole Foods locations in Massachusetts. As far as the “secret” behind how a mashed up blend of plants can so closely resemble a slab of cooked cow, its creators smartly aren’t sharing.
For anybody reading who may be thinking, ‘Of course anything will taste like a burger when you pile burger toppings on it,’ I thought the same thing. However eating a piece of the Beyond Burger plain rendered the same speechless revelation. It truly is something beyond description, and certainly worth a try whether you’re a veracious vegetarian or a curious carnivore.
It sells for $12.99 at TGI Fridays. Don’t ask for medium rare, since its not beef that’s not going to happen. And go quickly, the testing period for the Northeast region ends Oct. 17.