A lot of people like dogs and cats. A few people like hamsters and budgies. I like cows and pigs.
You see I am a carnivore. No make that a capital C and bold Carnivore. I tolerate plants in my diet. I even enjoy a few plants in my diet. But the food I get all in a tizzy about almost always includes some form of animal protein.
I think I was born and raised that way. Almost every kid was in my days. We adored potatoes. We appreciated peas and beans and corn and carrots. But the rest we dreaded seeing on our dinner plates. There I would sit, elbows off the table of course, listening to mom’s lectures about how lucky we were to have ration coupons (yes, I’m that old), how thousands of starving African or Asian children would be very happy to eat my greens, and how I wasn’t going out to play until my plate was squeaky clean. I’m not sure what my record longest holdout time was but it was at least an hour, probably two, staring at those turnips, kale, brussels sprouts or rapini before my dad would say, in his broadest Scots accent, “I think it’s time we let the wee wain play some footie with the other lads”.
My father was my superman supporter when it came to veggies. He had a way of making asparagus spears magically disappear into the serviette on his lap and, without ever a word being spoken, I inherited his technique and, again without ever opening my lips, I passed it on through the next generation down to my daughter.
Things have changed over the years. A lot. But no matter how much truffle-laced butter you poured over some young, white asparagus, I’d still choose a cheeseburger.
During those few, rare occasions when Don Day isn’t either eating red meat or fantasizing about red meat, I have an obligation that I must fulfill. I am responsible for making sure that Don Day’s Wife and I don’t run out of money before we die. Which means that, each and almost every morning, after reading all of the arts, entertainment, sports, gossip, bridge, sudoku and general news, I am taxed with reading the business pages of the newspaper.
Occasionally, it becomes a little less tedious. Because food makes it into the business press: Danone woos another overpriced water bottler. An old-fashioned chewing gum maker goes broke or is bought by Mars. Coke makes another attempt at launching a not very different cola. Nestlé reaches record revenue…again. And then, a couple of months ago, I read what? That something called Beyond Meat is going public. Oooooh, a chance maybe to make browsing through the stock tables a little more tasty. But who or what the hell is Beyond Meat?
To quote a company press release, they are the makers of “the world’s first plant-based burger that looks, cooks, and satisfies like beef without GMOs, soy, or gluten.”
I do a little more digging: The primary ingredient of the burger (besides water) is not soy as I expected but peas. Maybe better than soybeans but nothing to get excited about. Beyond Meat has less fat which is somewhat important to a guy who’s been called both chubby and tubby at times in his life but, again, not a big deal. But then a couple of things raise my eyebrows. A guy called Bill Gates, who apparently has less problems than I do making sure that his wife and he don’t run out of money before they die, had been in on the venture capital for Beyond Meat and had described it as the “future of food”. Plus Tyson Foods, who processes more real meat than anyone else in the world had already bought in for 5% of Beyond Meat. Maybe I should email my broker, perhaps put a buy order in.
The $25 IPO price tripled in the first three days. Today, the stock reached $172. I never bought a single share. I guess it just seemed anti-carnivore, like a betrayal of my premier taste choice.
Though I had lost an opportunity to finance the extension of our life on earth for a couple more years, I still had this nagging itch. I needed to invest, if not in the company, in at least the taste of one of their burgers.
I had decided that next time I was in Toronto’s Chinatown, I would eat where the Chinese eat. I would sample a Beyond Burger at A&W. When first introduced, the chain had sold out of them, 90,000 during the first three days, but they now had plenty in stock. But before I made it there, I was in Loblaws, my favorite Canadian grocery chain, and there they were, just about ten supermarket buggy lengths from the 60-day dry-aged rib roasts, Beyond Meat burger patties. What better way to sample them than to make them at home the absolutely exact way I like burgers made.
Beyond Burgers come in packs of two patties weighing in at 118 grams (4 ounces for those who live in Burma, Liberia or the USA). Now I like my burger patties to weigh in at about 175 grams (6 ounces). So I bought two packs with plans to double up on my burger, figuring an overweight burger was a lot better than a skinny one.
The price was a bit of a shocker. Each pack was priced at $7.99 or $35.40 Canadian a kilo (about $27 US) versus $11 Canadian ($8.40 US) a kilo for ground beef. Not only that, Beyond Burger came with a lot of useless extra packaging including that nasty black Cryovac.
I pulled my corkscrew out of the kitchen drawer and ripped away the plastic. The color and consistency was just like beef. Great start I thought. The patties were a little gooeyer than animal meat but the only problem was sticky fingers.
I wondered if I should lick them, would they taste like steak tartare, but I decided to stay in suspense for the finished product.
Beyond Burger has recommended cooking instructions on part of that excess packaging and I did what I was told. I preheated the natural gas barbie to medium high to high (650 F).
After four minutes I flipped the patties and I was wowed. There were perfect char marks as good as or perhaps even better than those on beef. Plus, absolutely no sticking to the steel grill. I topped them with cheese (Swiss for Don Day’s Wife, Cheddar for me) and when they reached 160 F on the thermometer, which was about three minutes later, off they came.
With beef, you lose as much as 15% of the weight when it’s on the grill. With Beyond Meat, there was little or no loss. There now seemed to be too much meat (oxymoron for a commited carnivore?) for a double burger and Don Day’s Wife went for a single pattie.
I used plain, soft, white bread buns and added my usual grilled young onions, yellow mustard, sour dill pickle and tomato to my double. That plus lettuce and ketchup went on Don Day’s Wife’s single.
We looked at them for a few seconds before we took our first bites. Just as before it was grilled, the color and texture looked almost exactly the same as a beef burger. I paused again. I wasn’t sure if I wanted the taste to be as good as a traditional burger or not.
We each took our first bite and looked at each other. Don Day’s Wife gave me her twist of the head, raise up the chin, sign of approval. I gave her my wink and double nod of the head. They were moist and had a nice amount of give to the molars. They tasted good. They tasted like beef. Like real meat. Nothing like my sad memories of their faux predecessors, those pasty tofu burgers from my distant past. But how good?
We had a couple more mouthfuls and looked at each other again.
“Beefy but not beefy enough”, I said.
“Like it’s missing that wonderful taste you get from the fat content in beef”, said Don Day’s Wife.
We liked Beyond Burgers but we weren’t jumping up and down. Though we were both intrigued. Don Day’s Wife wanted me to forward all the stuff my food-obsessed index finger had bookmarked while she had tried to fall asleep despite the light of my iPad.
I shared with her that, according to recent research, “Meat and dairy use 87 per cent of farmland and produce 60 per cent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, yet provide just 18 per cent of our calories and 37 per cent of our protein.”
According to a report from Beyond Meat, comparing the Beyond Burger to a standard quarter pounder, Beyond Burgers required 99% less water, 93% less land use, 90% fewer greenhouse gasses, and 46% less energy.
And, according to the New York Times, “Livestock account for around 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases each year — the same amount as the emissions from all the cars, trucks, airplanes and ships combined in the world today!”
So would I do my duty to the planet and buy Beyond Meat again? No, not at three times the price. And would I turn up my nose if someone one served it to me. Absolutely not, the taste was there, there just wasn’t enough of it. And do I think the value of Beyond Meat’s stock will continue to rise. Yes. But this narrow-minded carnivore is still not investing.
If you’re wondering if and when Beyond Meat might be on the meat counter of La Comer in San Miguel de Allende, I unfortunately can’t tell you. I contacted Sarah Waldrop who works for Beyond Meat who told me, “We are actually in a quiet period so we can’t speak to anything related to expansion.” Ah well, there are always beef burgers.