When it comes to vegetarian mock-meat products, the veggie burger is the holy grail.
You’ve got veggie burgers made of textured vegetable protein and other proteins, that try to simulate the texture of a real burger, but are dry and bland. You’ve got “juicy” veggie burgers that have a mushy texture, stuffed with vegetables and more like a stuffing patty than a burger.
You’ve got high tech creations and low tech homemade versions. If someone could get the veggie burger right, maybe that someone would get rich.
The veggie burger lives in a vegetarian and vegan gray area. They satisfy the craving for a burger that many vegetarians deny having! For a community that condemns meat, they sure do spend a LOT of money on non-meat products made to simulate it (I should know, I was a vegetarian for a number of years).
Admittedly, some people choose this option for supposed health reasons, or as a transition from meat-eating to vegetarian eating.
However, as a former vegetarian, the irony was not lost on me anytime I ate a mock-meat product. It seems to me that a veggie burger that bleeds would not be appreciated by many vegans. Decrying animal suffering, and indeed, opposing the slaughter of helpless animals, but then seeking out a veggie burger that looks like it is bleeding, with a medium rare color inside? Curious.
The Bloody Veggie Burger
Well, Brown’s Impossible Foods has done just that. They’ve made a veggie burger using plant products that is impossible for vegans to admit liking and, at $20 a patty, is impossible to afford.
The secret, apparently, is the use of heme, which comes from the roots of plants and has the iron-red appearance of the hemoglobin in blood.
A liquid solution is used to simulate the red color and “bleeding” effect of a rare or medium-rare burger, although the burgers produced seem to have a medium-rare look. They’ve attracted $75 million in venture capital from the likes of Bill Gates and Google Ventures.
Now, personally, I could think of some things more useful than giving mock ground-meat that bleeds to a community that doesn’t eat things that bleed, and making an ultra-expensive product that will only serve to feed those with disposable income. But I am sure many people will be tempted to try this product, at least once. For 20 bucks, I can get a really good steak!
To be fair, many non-vegetarians eat substitute meat products, including veggie burgers. However, for a consumer that eats meat, but occasionally eats meat substitutes, I’m not sure what the appeal of a 20-dollar bleeding veggie burger would be. The market, no doubt, does exist.
As the stories indicate, there are all sorts of hi-tech shenanigans happening in the veggie burger arms race. However, there are a number of national brands that already have a pretty good hold on the market. The two basic categories could be said to be soy-based burgers and grain and vegetable based. There are, of course, many other styles and overlapping types. They all have their shortcomings. Some soy based burgers are too dry an rubbery, not doing a good job at capturing the texture of a ground meat patty, while others are mushy and texture-less, falling into wet crumbs when you try to eat them. However, one misconception of veggie burgers is that they are always trying to simulate a real ground meat burger. This is not always true.
Some veggie burgers are meant to be their own thing. For instance, many people enjoy MorningStar Farms Garden Veggie Patties, which are completely different from their soy-based, and popular as well, Grillers. But the veggie patties could never be said to resemble a hamburger. People who like them like them for the vegetables and appreciate the texture for what it is. I can’t say that I am in that group, but companies that spend millions on trying to make a fake hamburger may be missing the point, if not the boat. Instead of re-inventing the burger, you may want to simply invent a new kind of burger, which many people do in their own kitchens.