Good for Us? Bad for Us? Much Ado about Plant-Based Burgers | The Food Party! | Laura Stec | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

The Food Party!

By Laura Stec

E-mail Laura Stec

About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

View all posts from Laura Stec

Good for Us? Bad for Us? Much Ado about Plant-Based Burgers

Uploaded: Oct 2, 2023

A quick online search for plant-based and “fake meat” quickly plunges one down the rabbit hole of The Great Debate. Which is “better”- plant or beef-based burgers?

Burgers made from plants were envisioned as one way to reduce greenhouse gases and other environmental problems associated with raising cattle. The United Nations considers beef responsible for 41% of livestock greenhouse gas emissions, much greater than emissions from transportation (all livestock accounts for 14.5% of global emissions). On the other hand, plant-based meat production has been shown to emit 30-90% fewer greenhouse gases than beef, with a 2018 study estimating Beyond Burgers at one-tenth the climate impact. Nearly 30 percent of the world’s ice-free land is used to raise livestock, and water used in production also causes pause; it takes 1847 gallons or 39 full bathtubs, to produce just one pound of beef.

Certainly sounds better, but what about human health? Plant burgers offer eaters more fiber than beef, and are similar in protein content and calories, however…

Plant burgers have approximately the same amount of saturated (bad) fat as beef.

Plant burgers have more added carbohydrates than beef, as well as a lot more sodium, and highly processed ingredients such as pea protein isolate, yeast extract, soy protein concentrate, potassium chloride, dextrose, and ingredients hard to pronounce.

Impossible Burger: 230 calories, 370 mg. sodium

Beef burger (85% fat): 287 calories, 85 mg. sodium

We Food Partied! at The Habit in Mountain View recently to check out not one but TWO veggie burgers on their menu. I had never been to The Habit before, celebrating 54 years in business in 2023.

The Habit isn’t the only fast food chain flipping fakies these days. KFC, Burger King, White Castle, TGI Fridays, Del Taco, and McDonald’s are all adding meat alternatives to their menus. The revolution will be char-broiled!

The day we visited, Original Impossible ($8.29) faced off

with the Veggie Burger ($7.79)

Both had a good flavor and filling. Personally, the winner was Impossible, which just seemed juicer. Could be thanks to the addition of heme, the secret ingredient that makes meat taste meaty. It's made for the burger from yeasts genetically engineered with genes derived from soy. Better? Not better?

And while we are talking health food invasion, how about a side of Tempura Green Beans? ($4.19) Green vegetables as a side dish in a fast food place? Deep fried. Better? Not better? Not sure, but tasty!

Who's got the best veggie burger? Any recommendations for a bite around town?

Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Francine Decker, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 3, 2023 at 7:34 am

Francine Decker is a registered user.

The problem with most plant-based burgers is that they contain far too much sodium (aka salt) to produce flavor.

We used to buy Boca Burgers until we realized they were worse (aka unhealthier) than eating real ground beef.

$8.29 and $7.79 are also way too much to be spending on an artificial hamburger...reduce the sodium and the price, then we'll talk.

Posted by Rebecca Cohn, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Oct 3, 2023 at 10:08 am

Rebecca Cohn is a registered user.

Plant-based burgers are processed foods and often contain GMOs. Many brands also use saturated fats (i.e. palm oil) and artificial seasonings to emulate the taste of ground beef.

Rather than opting for contrived hamburgers, perhaps it is best to simply limit one's consumption of ground beef and enjoy the real deal occasionally.

Anything offered by chain restaurants and advertised as 'healthy' is questionable because the corporate bean counters strive to keep food costs down.

And the same applies to the Boca Burger and Morningstar offerings found in grocery store freezer sections.

All things considered, I would rather enjoy a grilled portobello mushroom/burger than consuming plant-based meat options.

Posted by Judy Lange, a resident of Mountain View,
on Oct 3, 2023 at 10:29 am

Judy Lange is a registered user.

The Impossible Burger at The Counter costs $ who spends/wastes that kind of money on fake meat?

If the production of plant-based burgers is supposed to be more eco-friendly and cost-effective than the raising of livestock, then the prices should also be reflective of those savings.

Instead plant-based burgers are priced equal to (or more) than the price of regular ground beef.

They are a rip-off.

Posted by Wes Kendall, a resident of Los Altos,
on Oct 3, 2023 at 2:53 pm

Wes Kendall is a registered user.

I've seen vegans grilling Boca Burgers and slabs of tofu marinated in barbeque sauce on Weber kettles...I'll pass.

What was mind-boggling was how some of the hardcore vegans were borderline OCD about their tofu accidentally touching a portion of the grill where hamburgers were cooking.

Geez...why not just bring one's own Smokey Joe to cook those delectible plant-based burgers and stop whining about minor trivialities?

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 4, 2023 at 1:51 am

Bystander is a registered user.

I still say that the healthiest food is from a farm not a factory or a lab and travels the shortest distance to my home. If any product is manufactured more than a certain distance away, then you have to take into account the shipping method as well as everything else. Food that sits in shipping containers of any description for long periods of time before being put on the shelves can't be good for the environment.

Posted by Jacob Steinman , a resident of Menlo Park,
on Oct 4, 2023 at 12:36 pm

Jacob Steinman is a registered user.

Have vegan plant-based burger afficionados considered the recent scientific breakthroughs in lab-grown meat as an eventual alternative to being strictly vegan?

Lab-grown meat is not cost effective to produce at present but research towards gradually reducing production costs is currently underway.

This will be a boon to vegans, animal rights advocates, and adherents of my faith as no physical harm will ever come to livestock/poultry and kosher designations/requirements will most likely be lessened.

Posted by Amelia Butler, a resident of Professorville,
on Oct 4, 2023 at 4:14 pm

Amelia Butler is a registered user.

Good Meat in Alameda produces lab-grown meat. They take stem cells from beef or poultry and place them in a nutrient growing solution. Over a period of time, the cells begin to replicate forming a meat-like substance that resembles and tastes like ground beef or chicken breasts.

As a practicing vegan for over 25 years, I have now turned to lab grown meat to not only adhere to my animal rights advocates but also to return to the idyllic days of my youth when I frequently consumed cheeseburgers and fried chicken. *yum*

Good Meat has received FDA approval and inow being served at some of the finest restaurants in America including
China Chilcano by José Andrés in Washington D.C. Andrés' new dish, “Anticuchos de Pollo," consists of cultivated chicken marinated with anticucho sauce, native potatoes and ají amarillo chimichurri.

Lab grown chicken by Good Meat can be sampled by making reservations with the company. We went on a Tuesday and are now sold on the concept.

The proprietors informed us that they are now trying to create lab grown beef steaks with actual bones!

Like AI, investing in pre-IPO lab grown meat could be bigger than owning stock in Hormel, Swifts, Oscar Meyer, Foster Farms/Tyson Chicken, Rocky Range, Angus, Harris Ranch etc.

Now no one has to be a pure vegan unless they want to because there is more to life than tofu.

Posted by Helen Kim, a resident of Mountain View,
on Oct 5, 2023 at 2:42 pm

Helen Kim is a registered user.

Can ahi tuna be lab-grown as well? We own a small sushi shop and have to go to the wholesale fish market in San Francisco every other day and would like to eliminate this trip. Lab-grown shrimp would also be an added plus along with salmon.

Since most sushi diners add wasabi and soy sauce, it is highly unlikely they will notice any taste difference if the fish is developed from stem cells derived from tuna, salmon, and shrimp.

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Backhaus in Burlingame finally opens for the holiday rush
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 2,805 views

Burning just one "old style" light bulb can cost $150 or more per year
By Sherry Listgarten | 11 comments | 2,563 views

Fun Things to Do Around the Bay This Holiday – Peninsula Edition
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 2,399 views

Banning the public from PA City Hall
By Diana Diamond | 25 comments | 1,910 views

Premiere! “I Do I Don’t: How to build a better marriage” – Here, a page/weekday
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,058 views


Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 30 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away almost $10 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.