519 Schmecks: Where’s the Beef?

Like seriously, where and why is there a beef? Beyond Meat “burgers” and the like have made serious headway into the everyday market and it’s stirring up some controversy. I’m struggling with why.

I am built on meat. A charbroiled, full fat on the bone steak smothered in sea salt and garlic oil is my heaven. I will never, I repeat never, fully cut glorious fleshy and fatty meat from my diet. However, I am not afraid to eat plant-based and understand that as a society we need to move away from our “meat at every meal” ways as our personal and environmental health diminishes.

I do vegan January, but I also eat more beef fat the other 11 months of the year to make up for it. I consider my opinion on the topic of meat alternatives balanced and fairly neutral.

My issue is, open minded, environmentally aware, buy-local-type-people who appreciate what they put in their body are having strong, even visceral reactions, to the newest product – Beyond Meat, a plant-based meat substitute that seems to be popping up in nearly every fast food joint after becoming popular through an A&W partnership last year.

When a local farmer friend who makes a living raising cattle bashed it, I got it. This trend seems like an attack on their livelihood. An emotional response is expected.

But survey the average foodie over the age of 40, many respond with disgust, skepticism and criticism saying “eat grilled mushroom burgers instead!” or “who wants such over processed food” and “what about my local farmer? This is gonna hurt them.’’

Let me rebuke a few of these responses.

First, who cares! Nobody’s forcing you to eat this or the forthcoming waves of crickets already hitting grocery store shelves. Let the tree huggers have their lunch, ignore them.

For those saying to eat mushroom burgers instead — because those exist in fast food restaurants? This isn’t about people cooking at home already taking the time to eat unprocessed plant based foods, it’s for us on the run folks grabbing food from places like Tim Hortons and A&W.

Processed foods should be avoided, I agree, but let’s add the proper context. The absolute garbage brown sodium discs currently sold at fast food chains are just as processed, plus the beef is from massive factory farms where unseemly things are done to make the cheapest product possible.

If you are buying any burgers from your grocery store freezer, they too are highly processed. As such, you forfeit your right to voice an opinion.

Frozen burgers, vegan or not, are in a different category as beef-salt-fire, and we all know it so don’t hide behind your customized narrative to hate on something new.

Our hero, the local farmer, is worth protecting and this product, in my opinion, will only help.

Next time you are at a farmers’ market, tell me how many Beyond Meat burgers you see. They are not even remotely competing against each other, and the existence of new options in fast food and grocery stores will only help local producers carve out more space in the niche market they currently exist in.

Let’s talk about the good. The taste is comparable and frankly, when it’s dressed up with all the fixings and the salty sweet buns so synonymous with fast food joints, it stacks up.

Is it healthier? Maybe. Time will tell as more long term testing can be done, but at first glance most research says if nothing else it’s a tie with the average fast food option.

Is it better for the environment? Big time. Cattle farming eats up 87 per cent of all farmland, produces 60 per cent of all agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and only provides 18 per cent of our caloric intake and 37 per cent of our protein respectively.

Beyond Meat production generates 90 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions, uses 93 per cent less farmland, 99 per cent less water and nearly half the energy. In Canada, it’s also a huge opportunity. We produce a hell of a lot of peas and lentils, substantial ingredients in most meatless burgers.

The biggest win, in my opinion, is the accessibility, being available at almost every fast food joint in the land makes it easy for Joe Public to make the change at least once in a while.

Interestingly, over 90 per cent of the Beyond Meat sales in fast food outlets are ending up in the mouths of non vegans, which is a huge win for the environment. We can’t keep eating beef at the rate we do. The earth can’t support it.

So, to recap, don’t eat fake burgers if you don’t want to, but don’t be such a vocal critic of those who do, because you just sound like a loudmouth. Leave that to me!

Check out the recipe below for my amazing homemade veggie burgers!

Nick Benninger is a local chef and restaurant owner.

Chickpea and Mushroom Burgers 

These are great, savoury and hearty textured veggie burgers! They don’t feel like a veggie burger to me, instead eat like a thing of their own worthy of space on your BBQ! Top them how you like, but I’m a big fan of blue cheese and pickled hot peppers. The acidity and heat of the peppers really pairs well with the patty, and blue cheese — come on it’s the best!  I also recommend a light a fluffy bun, nothing too “whole grain” as they texture of the patty will be grainy enough. 


Yields 4-6 burgers depending on size 

2.5 cups raw chickpeas soaked in water overnight 

1.5 cups chopped mushrooms 

1 tablespoon bbq sauce 

1 tablespoon honey 

¼ cup olive oil 

4 cloves garlic 

2 tablespoons salt 

¼ lemon juice 


This is super easy. After the chickpeas have soaked overnight, discard the water and add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend until fairly smooth. The chickpeas will not totally breakdown and that’s good, we want a little texture.

Form the patty by hand and set aside in the fridge for 30 minutes to let them set and get firm. Set the BBQ to high and oil the patties so they don’t stick, then continue to grill them as you would a normal burger.

The BBQ will be great when adding char and texture to the crust of our burgers, but it can make it a challenge to keep them whole as they don’t have the same structure as beef. Move them gently and not as often as you would beef and they will be fine. Once you have charred them sufficiently, turn the BBQ down a bit and let them finish cooking with the lid on and the temp low. Brush with oil from time to time to help brown the crust. They should only take about 10 minutes total and will be ready to eat right away. Enjoy!  


Nick Benninger is a local chef and restaurant owner who writes the column 519 Schmecks.