Beyond Beef: Exploring Alternatives in the World of Burgers

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Looking at that simmering, fat, juicy beef patty being grilled to perfection makes one instantly salivate. The scrumptious burger filled with the goodness of oozing cheese and fresh greens, seasoned with the right spices can be the best meal after having a tiring day, but are you aware of the environmental impact of the extensive animal farming required in order to cater to the demand of meat for human consumption?

60% of the greenhouse gasses result from animal farming for the meat industry. With such a drastic impact on the environment, seeking less harmful means has become a priority, therefore alternatives to beef are always explored by scientists, environmentalists as well as by vegans. Certainly, burgers are not going anywhere but meat can be avoided, the popularity of burgers can be measured from this fun fact about burgers that you can find a hall of “hamburger” fame in Seymour, Wisconsin! The craze for burgers is real.

Brief History of Burgers

woman in vintage dress posing with burger and fries.

If you are a food connoisseur, you certainly enjoy diving deeper into the ancient history of your favorite food. Burger too has a fascinating history, though which one is correct is still a mystery as food is something every country wants to own and claims to be the pioneer of the recipe to add authenticity.

The first time something similar to hamburger appeared in a cookbook from the Roman era which was written in first-century A.D. [1] The cookbook belonged to Apicius who wrote of a minced meat patty recipe whereby meat was minced with a generous amount of spices and nuts and cooked well. Another reference to meat patty with bread was found in “Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse”. Rundstuck Warm was in fact the hamburger in Germany. The reference to this food item can be found in cookbooks or magazines of 1869.

US and the Burger History

While the USA claims that hamburgers belong to them and there is considerable history attached to the claim, with the 18th of September celebrated as National Birth of the Burger Day too, some food historians do not agree with the claim. [2]

It was believed that the hamburger originated in Hamburg, Ohio. Frank and Charles, the residents of Ohio used to sell sausage sandwiches but one day during the Erie County Fair in 1885, their meat supplier couldn’t offer them sausages and instead gave them minced beef. Though they did not like the fried patties they experimented with them by adding sugar, coffee, and spices. The result came out as a flavorful burger that tingle the taste buds of their customers and so it was the 18th of September, the day of Fair when the hamburger was invented in Ohio, USA, and thus the celebration of national hamburger day on the same date.

The No-Beef Juiciest Burgers

Plant-based burger

 It was always a point of concern that animals had to suffer for humans’ food but lately, the focus has shifted from ethical concerns to climatic and environmental ones. The amount of greenhouse gases that are part and parcel of cattle farming is tremendous, causing people to rethink their choices of consumption. According to the research done in 2020, more than 7.1 gigatons of greenhouses are caused by meat and dairy farming, and of all these, beef is the biggest culprit with 60 kg of greenhouse gasses emitted for just a kg of meat. [3] The table below gives an overview of the environmental impact of both a meat-based burger and a plant-based burger. 

Environmental Impact

Beef Burger

Vegan Burger

Water 2400 liters of water is required 170 liters of water are needed
Land 64.5 sqft for a quarter-pound burger. 93% less land than what is required for beef.
Green House Gas Emission 2.84kg CO2 per burger 0.68kg CO2 per burger
Energy 7-20 megajoules (MJ) for one burger 46% less energy is required compared to what is required  for a beef burger

 Not only that but to provide pastural grounds for the cattle, the forests are converted to farms, resulting in the deforestation of the rainforests which are the hubs of biodiversity. As per the research conducted by Nature’s Communication in 2020, 40% of rainforests were suffering due to heavy deforestation. But all of this destruction can be halted if healthier alternatives are sought or if ethical animal farming is preferred over overproduction. If you care, let’s explore from the list of these juiciest yet no-beef burger options that are worth giving a try

Go Vegan with Plant-based Burger

All those who are vegetarians but sometimes miss the meaty, tender burgers that were their daily meals now are in luck as plant-based burgers are the commonly available option. Not only are these burger patties delicious and very much like your regular beef patties, but they are also healthier as well. With more fiber and vitamins and a limited amount of saturated fats, they are a good source to avoid getting diabetic or having heart disease

Unlike meat, the cruelty-free burger patties are a sustainable alternative to regular burgers, in that no animal gets harmed because of it and one gets the texture and feel of the real meat as well. Made from mushrooms, beet, and soybeans, they aid in digestion too due to their fiber-rich content and keep one healthy as well.

But Which Plant-Based Burgers Are Not Healthy

Which Plant-Based Burgers Are Not Healthy

Just like every food that is available in the market, even plant-based burgers have to be scrutinized before opting for one. The idea is to choose healthy eating but if the burger is too processed, it kills the real purpose of conscious eating. With people becoming more aware, plant-based burgers have gained a lot of popularity in the last few years. But before buying ensure that whatever brand you are buying is ethical and not adding too much of carrageenan and methylcellulose. These bulking agents do more harm than good to the environment as well as to the consumer.

Mushrooms All the Way

Portobello mushroom for the burger

Do you know that the mushroom, the superfood, can be made into a burger? These delicious, silky textured fungi can be a healthier and scrumptious alternative to your beef cravings. The mushrooms are churned and blended well with grains and spices to ensure they satiate your hunger and you get the meat flavor to the maximum. While these burgers taste like beef as well, the fact that they are rich in antioxidants and cater to your Vitamin D intake as well. Usually, Portobello Mushrooms are favored for burger patties.

While it is amazing for vegans, even flexitarians would be glad to try these as the taste and texture look similar to the beef patties without the guilt of killing an animal for the meal. [4]

Protein Punch of Bean- Lentil Burger

delicious bean burger patty

Anyone wanting to maintain the protein in their diet should immediately get their hands-on bean and lentil burgers. These alternatives to beef are loaded with dietary fibers, ensuring your digestive system stays healthy. With flavorful spices, the concoction of chickpeas, pinto beans, black beans, and sometimes even brown rice and quinoa, lentil burgers are a complete meal and you cannot differentiate between your regular beef and the bean burger. [5]

Apply a generous amount of plant-based butter(make sure you get the less refined ones) on buns and fill your burger patties and veggies that you enjoy in burgers and you are good to go to savor a protein-rich burger. [6]

The Chewy Seitan Burgers

It is not easy to be vegan; you choose to cut down on your favorite meals because animals are the main ingredients but as the world becomes more aware, vegan alternatives are easier to find. Even if you cannot find any, fix yourself a quick hearty seitan burger at home and you will be amazed by how closely it tastes like the regular meaty burgers.

In order to make it at home you require wheat gluten, tahini, mushrooms, broth, miso paste, broth, black beans, paprika powder, onion powder, and garlic powder. [7] Once well combined in the food processor, it has to be kneaded and made into dough that can be cut and shaped into burger patties. It has a chewy texture and hearty taste and is a low-calorie option that is iron-rich and healthier than the beef one.

The Jackfruit Burger

Just like a-pulled-pork meat, Jackfruit patties, when cooked with spices, sauces, vinegar, and maple syrup, look and feel like real meat and not some fruit. Can be eaten with sprouts and beans along with potato rolls.

It can be easily made at home with unripe jackfruit, garbanzo flour, or chickpeas if the flour is not available, red onion, ginger, and curry powder. Not everything needs to be store-bought.

Impossible Burger that Bleeds!

the no-meat meat

If someone wants meat that is not meat but bleeds anyway, an impossible burger is your thing. Made with soy-protein concentrate and sunflower as the main ingredient, it is further incorporated with water and to make it bleed, heme is also included in it. One can find heme in meat as it is an iron molecule

Initially, this burger was only made available at eateries where it gained so much popularity but now one can find the burger patties in any grocery store. If you still crave for beef, the Impossible burger will certainly help you to fix a non-version of meaty patties at home. [8]

Animal-but-not-Meat Alternatives

Animal-but-not-Meat Alternatives of Burgers

It is understood that for many, quitting meat is not an option or they have managed to be flexible in their choices and avoid meat to the maximum. For all those seeking healthier alternatives than beef but are not ready for a plant-based diet, the list is of all the burger options that are healthier, satiate your taste buds, and are equally filling as the beef burgers.

The Seafood Burger:

healthy fish fillet burger

Have a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids by enjoying a hearty burger of either fish if the delicate flaky texture is your choice or crab cake if you like chewy textures. Fish and crab burgers are often sauteed in spices and tangy sauces made of citrus fruits, one can find a variety of options to choose from as every fish has a different meat taste.

The Poultry Burgers

protein-rich burger patties

These leaner-than-beef options can be explored with the meat of chicken and turkey. With low fats and calories and an abundance of vitamin B and iron, poultry burgers are not only yummy but easy on your tummy as well.  You can grill, bake and fry them depending on how juicy you want the patty to be.

Protein Burgers:

Besides chicken and turkey, bison, ostrich, elk, and venison are good protein-rich options when it comes to burgers. They are perfect for people who cannot have a tasteless diet but want to stay fit as well as these are high in protein but low in fat.

The flavors are usually rich and robust and can be complemented with sweet or savory condiments. From medium to rare, the diner has to decide the texture they prefer to get the burger grilled to perfection.

Interesting facts About Burgers

The burger is not just famous for just a delicious meal but the ease of customization it offers to the person makes it all the more appealing. This world-favorite sandwich is not just interesting as a food but there are many interesting facts about burgers too are fascinating or downright hilarious in many instances. One of the most fun facts about burgers is the countries’ fight over its origin. Every country wants to own it to prove their recipe of the hamburger as authentic. Read on these other 4 interesting facts that every burger aficionado should know.

1- 60% of all sandwiches that are eaten are actually hamburgers! No surprise there. [9]

2- People are so crazy for burgers that McDonald’s, on average sells 75 hamburgers in a second. [10]

3- Hamburg in the USA is where the hamburgers were made by the immigrants and the reason why hamburgers are called what is it called. [11]

4- Americans eat so many hamburgers that if you circle the world with their demand for hamburgers, it will encircle the earth a whopping 32 times.

Conclusion

From Veg gourmet burgers to a variety of seafood options, the burger has evolved a lot in all these years, but what has remained unchanged is the love people have for their favorite sandwich. The comfort food for many, the burger has catered to the demands of every era as the versatile delicacy can be altered as per the taste and requirement with no hard and fast rule or lengthy, difficult recipes to follow. If you are health conscious or just care for ethical living, plant-based options are fun too and definitely worth a try.

References

[1] (2021, May 28). The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2021/05/28/hamburger-origin-story/

[2] Birth of the hamburger. (n.d.). Erie County Fair. https://www.ecfair.org/p/info/about-the-fair/birth-of-the-hamburger

[3] (n.d.). Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidrvetter/2020/10/05/got-beef-heres-what-your-hamburger-is-doing-to-the-climate/?sh=5a779bc65206

[4] How mushrooms are capping the alternative proteins market. (2021, August 26). World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/08/mushrooms-plant-based-meat-free-proteins/

[5]Florian. (2021, September 27). Vegan lentil burger. Contentedness Cooking. https://www.contentednesscooking.com/vegan-lentil-burger/

[6] McGrane, K. (n.d.). Is plant-based butter healthy? Nutrition and how it compares. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/plant-butter

[7] Rosa. (2022, January 24). The best vegan Grillable Seitan burger. This Healthy Kitchen. https://thishealthykitchen.com/seitan-burger/

[8 ]Impossible™ burger: Made from plants. (n.d.). Impossible Foods: Meat made from plants. https://impossiblefoods.com/products/burger

[9]Ten burger facts (BurgerFi). (n.d.). Beef2Live | Eat Beef * Live Better. https://beef2live.com/story-ten-burger-facts-burgerfi-104-111766

[10] Loeb, K. (2019, February 4). 8 interesting facts about the burgers you love. Dead Presidents. https://deadpresidentspub.com/8-interesting-facts-about-the-burgers-you-love/

[11] Development@go321.com. (2015, August 10). 10 interesting facts about hamburgers. The Half Wall. https://thehalfwall.com/10-interesting-facts-about-hamburgers/

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