There was a lot of buzz when Tyson Foods invested in Beyond Meat and its supposedly 'bloody veggie burger'. So as a meat eater who kind of likes fake meat, I was excited to check it out.
When I finally did get to try a Beyond Burger, however, I wasn't exactly blown away. Don't get me wrong—it was tasty, and a more decadent experience than your average veggie burger. But unlike its rival Impossible Burger—which I have tried and really, really enjoyed—I was under no illusions that it was actually beef. Between a slightly softer texture, and a slight coconut aftertaste, this was a decent enough burger, but it was absolutely a veggie burger.
So when I finally saw Beyond Meat's sausage products in our local Whole Foods, I didn't have too high expectations. They come in three flavors right now—Brat Original, Hot Italian, and Sweet Italian—but I opted to start in the brat territory. I must say, I was impressed. Coming, as they do, in an actual vegetarian casing, they are already ahead of many of their other vegetarian sausage counterparts which tend to lack that "snap" of a real, meat-based sausage. Here's how the Beyond Meat site explains this innovation:
The casing is made of alginate, which is obtained from algae. It is a natural product and 100% plant-based. Alginate is used in some fresh turkey and seafood based sausages to deliver a similar pop and texture as animal-based casings.
As for the "meat" itself (sorry Missouri!), this too was impressive. Like the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger, there's a fatty mouthfeel that's unlike most veggie products that have come before it—and decidedly reminiscent of an actual meat sausage. And presumably because the form factor allows for spices and herbs, I found both the initial flavor and the after taste to be a whole lot closer to a real bratwurst than the burger was to an, ahem, burger.
That said, it wasn't a slam dunk replica. While there is some chew and variation in texture, it still comes off a little softer and perhaps pastier than the (really good) bratwurst I am used to getting from a local butcher here. But it's also got significantly less 38% less saturated fat and 43% less total fat overall, which meant that while I was getting a certain amount of greasy decadence, I actually ended up less bloated and uncomfortable than I'm used to when I'm indulging in the real thing.
Overall, this might be one of the better plant-based meat analogs I've tried. Which is hardly surprising. Given the highly processed, spiced nature of sausage in general—not to mention its less than healthy reputation—it seems like a logical place for plant-based "clean meat" start ups to hone their craft.
I look forward to seeing and tasting what Beyond Meat are working on next.