On the other hand, meat alternatives contain no cholesterol, compared with 80 milligrams in a 4-ounce, uncooked beef patty. Both Impossible and Beyond burgers contain more iron than beef—about 25% of an average consumer’s daily recommended intake, versus about 10% for beef. Beyond’s burger has six grams of saturated fat and Impossible’s eight, versus 8.6 in ground beef.
“I love them,” said Sarah DiZio, a 35-year-old San Francisco resident who works as a counselor at a mental-health facility. “They are almost indistinguishable from beef.”
Beyond’s Mr. Brown said that over time, plant-based burger developers will improve their products. Beyond is lowering the saturated fat level in its burgers to 5 grams, about 40% lower than ground beef.
But some restaurant executives say the high degree of processing required to make the plant-based burgers clashes with their customers’ desire for more simple and natural ingredients.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
spokeswoman said the fast-casual chain avoids foods with artificial colors, flavors or preservatives and views plant-based meats as too processed. Chipotle sells other meat-free options including vegetarian burritos and tacos, along with salads.
Panera Bread Co., a 2,300-unit chain owned by European investment fund JAB Holding Co., doesn’t plan to serve plant-based meats after customer surveys in April found they were more interested in whole food proteins rather than processed ingredients, said Sara Burnett, the chain’s vice president for wellness and food policy.
Carl’s Jr. has sold 4 million Beyond burgers since last year. Owen Klein, vice president of global culinary innovation for parent company CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc., said they are a good source of protein without additives that some consumers avoid. The company plans to test a plant-based burger and sausage patty in its Hardee’s chain soon.
Some shoppers are skeptical of the extensive processing required to make convincing burgers out of plants. Sixty-one percent of U.S. consumers think beans and other traditional plant-based proteins are healthier than manufactured meat substitutes, market-research firm Mintel found in a recent survey.
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“Like any processed foods you buy via fast-food or grocery stores, they don’t substitute for homemade,” said Clarissa Johal, an author from Raleigh, N.C., who has been a vegetarian for around 30 years.
Dr. Sue Klapholz, Impossible’s head of health and nutrition, said processed foods aren’t all bad. “We’re closer to bread than we are a candy bar,” she said.
Beef producers, fearful that plant-based products could cut into sales of traditional burgers and steaks, want to play up beef’s nutritional distinctions. Kenny Graner, a North Dakota cattle rancher and head of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, said the industry should launch a campaign similar to its “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” advertisements.
“These folks aren’t as healthy as beef or any of the meats are,” Mr. Graner said.
Ginger Hultin, a Seattle-based dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said plant-based meat alternatives have some potential benefits over beef, such as higher fiber. But they’re still burgers, she said.
“This might not be an everyday thing,” she said. “It might be more of a treat.”
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