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Believe in the Beyond Burger

August 31, 2018

I decided the other day to share my experience with the Beyond Burger – the famous vegan burger that famously tastes like beef. I say “famous” twice, to highlight how strange my next experience was.

Two of my meat-eating Facebook friends appeared and immediately questioned my judgement that the Beyond Burger does, indeed, taste like beef. They did not do so having tried it themselves.

Imagine if you were eating a sandwich with tomato, and said “This is a good tomato sandwich. It tastes very tomatoey,” and your friend – who isn’t currently eating your sandwich, so can’t comment on its tomatoiness one way or the other – leaned over and asked, “Are you sure it’s tomato?”

I think you’d say: “Yes, I’m sure it’s tomato. You must think I’m an absolute nincompoop who doesn’t know a tomato when he eats one.”

The responses I got suggested that perhaps the burger was actually beef after all, or else it was obviously fried in animal fat. I suppose they must think that the woman who made it is an idiot, either because she’s a vegan or because she’s Vietnamese. Obviously, I don’t agree with the former, and no one should agree with the latter.

Obviously, the question of whether a very meat-like substance is, in fact, meat, is a more difficult question to answer than the question of whether a tomato is a tomato. As I am regretfully unable to examine the chemical composition of my food, or see into its past with my magic vegan powers, I can’t be absolutely certain. However, there are a few things I am certain of:

  • Vegan companies don’t try their darnedest to slip vegans meat, because what would be the point? They could just sell meat, and advertise it as meat. They’d make more money. Unless we are deciding that there’s a vast conspiracy and vendetta against vegans, and Tofurky is in on it.

  • Vegans are capable of communicating. We can ask each sellers and manufacturers about the composition of the food we eat, and we frequently have to, so are more practiced in this arcane art than most.

  • People who set up vegan food stalls are reasonably passionate about veganism. They also know what it is. They don’t tend to slip a bit of animal juice into the vegan food, because, again, they are better versed in what animal products actually are than most people.

  • We act as a community. We’re always sharing and discussing food with other vegans and thus, don’t really ever eat alone, in the same way as someone eats alone when he buys an anonymous beef burger with a hidden past. There’s a trust element among vegans that no one has good reason to violate. If the vegan woman running a vegan business says the famously vegan burger from the famously vegan company is vegan, then it’s vegan.


Why don’t you buy the burger?

I wonder where all the incredulity around the Beyond comes from. Most of us are generally knowledgeable enough to know that flavour is nothing but smell, a smell is nothing but molecules up the nose. A small jump tells you that molecules are nothing but small mixtures of compounds and elements. A further jump still tells you that locating these same elements and compounds and sticking them together in the right formation simulates a smell and taste.

We also know that all elements are available from non-living sources. They have to be. If they weren’t, then life came from literally nowhere. Therefore, if we find those sources, figure out the correct combination, and copy the it, we have synthesised any flavour we like. All without going anywhere near an animal.

It might sound like science fiction, but the glory of science fiction is that some of it becomes reality at some point. Sometimes, it’s inevitable. We are aiming to understand all the matter in the universe; we couldn’t claim to have achieved this without first understanding the effect on our senses of particular molecules in combination.

Yes, modern chemistry is yet at this point. But we still use the alchemy of the old school, where people just mixed any old thing together to see what would happen. We’ve made a lot of discoveries that way, especially in food.

Why is it hard to believe that someone was experimenting with flavour, and stumbled across passable beef? Who said that the only thing in the universe that can possibly have a beef flavour is a cow, or similar animal? I’m no botanist – for all I know, there’s a plant in Turkmenistan that tastes exactly like beef. Why not?

It’s almost as if people need to find something wrong with the Beyond Burger. I must have made a convincing review of it; it would have been all too easy for them to suggest that it doesn’t really taste like beef, I just think so because I’ve been vegan so long, my meat-starved brain is experiencing beef hallucinations. (Actually, meat eaters are far worse at identifying meat versus non-meat.)

But why, may I ask, is there a need to find something wrong with it? You’ve got a beef burger that isn’t actually made of an animal, and still tastes like the flavour you like. It’s a guilt free dream come true. Why on earth would anyone bother to argue with it, or find undue fault in it?

Perhaps the denial is so deeply ingrained, it doesn’t occur to them that the Beyond Burger and its kind are not nasty vegan enemies, coming to take over the world. They are specifically for the people who shun them. They’re easy liberators. You don’t have to give up anything, if the whole meat section is replaced with stuff that tastes the same. I can think of no possible rational reason why this future is objectionable to anyone.


From → Animal Rights

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