Everyone has a favourite type of burger: beef, turkey, chicken, or salmon. But plant-based burgers are stepping up to the forefront.

Currently in the plant-based burger market are the two top contenders, the Beyond Meat burger and the Impossible burger. They claim to be healthier and better for the environment than traditional beef burgers, but is it true?

The Beyond Meat burger contains 20 grams of protein, which come from peas, mung beans and rice. Its fat content is from canola and coconut oils, while beets and pomegranates provide meat-like redness.

But on the other hand, while the Beyond Meat burger has a similar number of calories and fat compared to 80 per cent lean beef, it also has a high amount of sodium and highly processed concentrates, oils, and flavours.

The other contender is the Impossible burger, which gets its 19 grams of protein from soy and potato, and its fat from a mix of coconut and sunflower oils.

Nutritionally, the Impossible burger is similar to Beyond Meat in terms of the amount of fat and calories. But like Beyond Meat, it also contains higher levels of sodium when compared to beef. 

In a taste test, how do these burgers compare with the real deal? 

“Well, both the burgers were impressive imitators of meat. But the Impossible Burger was that much closer to a mimic of real meat, because of the taste and appearance,” said Amy Keating, a nutritionist with Consumer Reports. 

Both burgers are plant-based, so it’s tempting for consumers to believe think they are healthier than an actual burger.

Keating said that’s not necessarily the case. “Both burgers have ultra-processed ingredients like soy concentrates, isolates, oils, flavours. And they have similar amounts of saturated fat but much more sodium than regular beef.”

Soy leghemoglobin is a compound found in the Impossible burger that gives it some of the taste, texture and juicy, bloody look of real beef. But experts say to exercise caution around ingredients humans don’t typically eat.

“We’ve never eaten soy leghemoglobin before and scientists just don’t know enough about it yet. Is it safe? Maybe. But without additional research, we don’t know for sure,” said Rachel Rabkin Peachman, Consumer Reports’ investigative reporter. 

In a statement to Consumer Reports, Impossible Foods said, “All the studies we did indicated that there was no risk of allergenicity or toxicity.”

What’s their environmental impact? 

While experts say lower red meat consumption is beneficial for the planet, further research is needed to determine if these burgers are more environmentally friendly. 

In a study conducted by Beyond Meat, “one of its burgers generates 90 per cent fewer greenhouse gases and requires 46 per cent less non-renewable energy than a comparable feedlot-raised beef burger,” according to Consumer Reports. 

In a similar study done by Impossible Foods, the Impossible Burger produces 89 per cent fewer greenhouse gases and uses 87 per cent less water than a traditional beef burger, according to Consumer Reports.

What is the cost compared to real beef?

113 grams of ground beef (a quarter pound) retails for approximately $1.50, depending on the seller. The Beyond Meat burger is sold in various restaurants and stores, and costs $7.99 for two 113-gram patties. On the other hand, the Impossible burger is yet to hit the Canadian market. It’s only sold in restaurants across the United States and Asia, and is yet to arrive on store shelves.

If you are looking for a healthier meatless burger made with whole food ingredients, Consumer Reports recommends Amy’s California veggie burger. Unlike the Beyond and Impossible burgers, it doesn’t try to taste exactly like meat. It also contains less sodium, fat, calories and fewer processed ingredients, too.

Nutritional breakdown

Beyond Meat patty (113 grams): 250 calories, 18 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 390mg of sodium, and 20 grams of protein. 

Impossible patty (113 grams): 240 calories, 14 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 370mg of sodium, and 19 grams of protein. 

80 per cent lean ground beef (113 grams): 287 calories, 22 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 75mg of sodium, and 19 grams of protein.