MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – When MyBurger started offering the Impossible Burger, its owners assumed the meatless alternative would make up 2-5% of their business. Instead, depending on the store, it makes up 5-15%.

“It’s been a fun jungle to make sure we can actually get it to our customers who come in the door,” says Paul Abdo, MyBurger vice president.

At the same time, the other big player in the plant-based meat substitute market is booming. Since its IPO last month, Beyond Meat stock has gone up 600%.

People interviewed at MyBurger on Monday said their Impossible burger tasted “similar” or “comparable” to their beef one.

“It’s not your 1970s black bean veggie burger,” says Kowalski’s registered dietician Sue Moores.

So, what’s in the meat alternative? Good Question.

The Impossible Burger is sold more in restaurants, while Beyond Meat products are more dominant in grocery stores.

“They’re made out of similar practices but have a different starting material,” says Tyler Lorenzen, President of Puris, a Minneapolis-based company that makes pea protein.

Pea protein is a key component of Beyond Meat products, along with other plant proteins, canola oil and beet juice. It’s the beet juice that mimics the red juices of real meat.

Impossible Foods don’t use pea protein, but rather soy protein. It also adds coconut oil and heme, a molecule that gives it the taste of meat.

Minnesota Beef Council spokesperson Karin Schaefer says it’s important to point out beef itself is just one ingredient while meatless alternatives can have 20 ingredients in one product.

Both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have stated goals of trying to get people to eat more plants than animal meat, but when it comes to nutritional differences, there’s still debate about which is better — meat or meat alternative.

“I would probably say they’re really close,” Moores said.

The calories (240 for Beyond Meat, 270 for Impossible burger and 280 for 80/20 beef patty), fat and saturated fat for a 4-ounce piece of meat and meatless options are similar. The meatless brands have more sodium and the meat has more cholesterol.

Moores says cholesterol isn’t as big of a driver of heart health as it saturated fat.

“If someone is a big beef eater and they would put this in to balance the scale, then that’s a good thing,” Moores says. “Does it need to take the place of all red meat? No, because there’s great things in beef.”

Heather Brown

Comments (2)
  1. Ed James says:

    “heme, a molecule that gives it the taste of meat.”

    Doesn’t heme come from animals?