Veggie burger or beef patty? These game new grillables promise the best of both
AMERICA IS OFTEN described as a country of extremes. A prime example: our relationship with meat. In 2019, as the fervor for plant-based proteins exploded and even Burger King’s Whopper went meatless, U.S. meat consumption hit a record high.
But the truth is, far from being a nation divided between committed carnivores and strict vegans, most Americans fall somewhere in between. In a recent Gallup poll, nearly one in four respondents reported eating less meat in the past year, while only around 5% of Americans consider themselves vegetarian or vegan—a number that hasn’t changed much in two decades.
To cater to this cohort of “flexitarians” looking to reduce their meat consumption without giving it up entirely, food companies such as Cargill, Tyson, Perdue and several upstarts are embracing a middle way: “blended meats” that combine beef, pork or poultry with grains and vegetables. They aim to match the flavor and texture of meat with the reduced environmental footprint and improved nutritional profile many consumers report they’re seeking—slashing carbon emitted in production as well as calories and fat in the product, while adding fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Tasting my way around the new crop of blended meats, I found the best ones avoid the processed proteins and fillers common in plant-based “meats” and opt instead for recognizable ingredients like whole grains, vegetables, herbs and spices. Stretching meat with such items is, after all, an age-old practice, from Italian meatballs to Chinese dumpling fillings. The following product lines were standouts …
Applegate Well Carved
This new line flaunts the veg, with visible chunks of organic beans, spinach, cauliflower and the like. “What we’re hearing from consumers is that they want real food,” said Applegate President John Ghingo. The turkey burger, beef burger and meatballs in Asian and Mediterranean flavors are roughly two-thirds meat, one-third organic vegetables, grains and legumes. I found the turkey burgers moister and more flavorful than many 100% meat versions. The meatballs, with ¼ cup vegetables per serving, were a no-brainer swap for the all-pork type I often serve my children. No complaints so far. $7 for 11 meatballs; $10 for four burgers, applegate.com