This is a short comparison of Beyond Meat and ground beef.
Specifically, I’ll be comparing Beyond burgers with 80/20 ground beef (the standard for burgers).
I’m not going to comment on taste since it’s a subjective topic and it’s been years since I’ve had any beef.
Protein and Nutrition of Beyond Burgers vs Beef Burgers
Let’s start with the macros for each protein source for a 100 gram serving of both.
|Beyond Burger||Beef Burger|
|Fat||12.4 g||15.9 g|
|Saturated Fat||4.4 g||6.1 g|
|Cholesterol||0 mg||90 mg|
|Carbohydrates||6.2 g||0 g|
|Fiber||1.8 g||0 g|
|Protein||17.7 g||24.0 g|
The biggest differences are:
- Beef has more calories per 100 grams
- Beef contains cholesterol, while Beyond Burgers do not
- Beef is slightly higher in protein – In a Beyond Burger, 35% of calories come from protein, while 39% of calories come from protein in a beef burger.
- Beef is slightly higher in fat (and saturated fat)
- Beyond Burgers contain some fiber and carbohydrates, beef does not
Nutrients in Beef and Beyond Burgers
While I realize that most people aren’t eating burgers for health reasons, we can also look at the vitamins and minerals in plant vs meat burgers.
|Beyond Burger (% DV)||Beef Burger (% DV)|
There’s surprisingly very little difference between Beyond Burgers and meat burgers when it comes to vitamins and minerals. This suggests that the makers of the plant-based burgers specifically aimed for a similar nutrient content.
The only significant difference is the vitamin B-12. Since vegans are one of the main customers for Beyond Burgers, this isn’t surprising.
Beef burgers are typically just composed of beef (and perhaps some seasoning), while Beyond Burgers have a longer ingredient list:
Water, pea protein, canola oil, refined coconut oil, rice protein, natural flavors, dried yeast, cocoa butter, methylcellulose, and less than 1% of several flavoring ingredients and vitamins
For the most part, Beyond Burgers are just plant protein powders (pea and rice) mixed with oil and flavoring ingredients.
When plant based burgers like Beyond and Impossible were first introduced, they were way more expensive (I remember paying $5 per patty around 2017).
As time has passed, beef is still currently cheaper in grocery stores, but plant based burgers like Beyond Burgers are approaching parity.
As I write this:
- Beyond Burgers are approximately $2.5 per patty
- Ground beef costs about $1 per patty (if you shape and season them yourself)
It’s not the fairest comparison since one is a pre-made product and the other isn’t.
However, the cost of each burger is nearly identical in fast food restaurants. So while beef may be cheaper in most places, plant-based meats aren’t that much more expensive anymore.
Environmental Impact of Beef vs Beyond Meat
One of the biggest differences between these 2 protein sources is that Beyond Meat has a much lower carbon footprint than beef.
Beef is the worst protein source (even of all meats) in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, as shown by the graph below (from OurWorldInData).
On the other hand, the main ingredients of Beyond Meat are rice and pea protein, which both fall into categories that are low on the list.
Beef has a terrible environmental impact, while plant-based meats like Beyond Meats are relatively environmentally-friendly.
Which is Healthier?
The main reason that Beyond Meat is healthier than beef is that it’s made without antibiotics or hormones, which are often abused in livestock (especially in the U.S.).
Beef does contain cholesterol and more saturated fat, which historically have been associated with poorer health outcomes. However, more recent advances show that both cholesterol and saturated fat probably aren’t that bad (1, 2).
It’s a complex topic that I’m not going to go into here.
There is one study that found that swapping meat for Beyond meat resulted in positive effects on heart disease markers (3):
Among generally healthy adults, while keeping all other dietary components similar, the Plant products improved several cardiovascular disease risk factors, including TMAO.
However, the one big caveat is that this study was funded by a donation from Beyond Meat, which makes me take the results with a grain of salt. It’s also just a single study with relatively short-term outcomes, so I don’t think you can conclude too much.
If anything, Beyond Burgers are probably healthier than beef.
Summary: Beyond Meat vs Beef
Let me try to summarize the big differences and similarities between the 2 protein sources:
- Both Beyond Meat and Beef have similar protein and nutrient amounts
- Beef contains more saturated fat and cholesterol
- Beyond Meat contains fiber and slightly less protein
- Beef is cheaper than Beyond Meat, but the price gap is closing over time
- Beyond Meat has a way lower carbon footprint
- Beyond Meat is likely healthier than beef
If they tasted the exact same (which I’m aware they don’t), it’s clear in my eyes that Beyond Meat is the better protein source of the two.
However, while the popularity of plant-based meats will continue to grow, there’s also a significant portion of the population who will likely never switch over.
One other aspect to consider is that there are many lab grown meat startups who are nearing a commercial product. Lab grown beef has the same taste as “real” beef, but is much healthier and has a much lower environmental impact (not to mention is more ethical).
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