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Plant-based meat substitutes are here and they're changing the future of food

NOW: Plant-based meat substitutes are here and they’re changing the future of food

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(MILWAUKEE) - They're burgers that look, cook and taste like meat, except they grow out of the ground. Plant-based meat substitutes are here and they're changing the future of food.

On CBS 58 Sunday Morning, Cearron Bagenda shows us how these plant-based meat alternatives are growing in the area, and how one Milwaukee native is making his mark in the up-and-coming industry.

Growing up on meat, potatoes and of course, good old Wisconsin cheese, Milwaukee native Danny O’Malley still craves beef, but the problem is, he doesn’t eat meat. O’Malley found a way to get around it, by making his own line of soy-based meat alternatives called 'Before The Butcher' and he’s bringing it back to Cream City.

“These products are actually made for meat eaters. People that enjoy meat, and they’re looking for other options that are healthier, better for them, the planets, the animals so on and so forth,” said O’Malley.

It’s not just beef alternatives O’Malley is making. He’s also engineering soy to imitate chicken, turkey and sausages.

”The texture is better to us, and it’s easier to mimic the flavors of the meat profiles we’re trying to mimic with a soy based product as well because it’s a cleaner product without as much of a flavor aftertaste to it,” adds O’Malley.

People who try his products may be surprised to see a plant-based patty ‘bleeding’ while it’s being cooked.

“These burgers were actually made to look, cook, smell and taste just like ground beef and as you can see as the oils and the water within the burger tend to surface it brings the beet juice- which is our coloring—up along with it,” said O’Malley. “It gives it this kind of bloody look like it’s actually bleeding like a regular burger would.” 

Meat substitute companies are even starting to dive in to fish imitations.

Culinary teachers from Milwaukee Area Technical College say many are making the switch to these meat free substitutes because it may help our planet.

”When you look at the by-product of these animal products in terms of greenhouse gases, things like that, you can see why people are probably looking around for something that they feel might be more earth friendly,” said John Reiss, Chef-Instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College.   

Brazil produces the most beef in the world and to supply the demand farmers are burning rainforests to make room. Research claims it takes a whopping 1,000 gallons of water to produce that sizzling steak on your grill.

”Producing beef is a huge drain on the water resources,” said Reiss.

When plant-based meat substitute company 'Beyond Meat' became the first to be publicly traded in May, stock prices climbed more than 500-percent.

The brand has already made its way into Milwaukee-based burger joint AJ Bombers.

”It’s actually been really popular lately, I would say we do you know a couple hundred burgers a day you know depending on the day and we’ll probably get a good you know 10-percent Beyond Burger orders,” said James Ko, General Manager at AJ Bombers in Wauwatosa. “So a lot of people are turning to that plant based protein for sure.”

Beyond Meat is soy free, their products get their protein from peas.

The Beyond Burgers at AJ Bombers are served with some pink in the middle, just like regular burgers. The burgers have the same look, mouthfeel and taste to that of ground beef.

Beyond Meat’s popularity has skyrocketed, even launching a test run with fast food chain KFC. Last week KFC released a special vegan fried chicken at one Atlanta location, and reports say it sold out in five hours.

Other plant-based meat substitute brands like Impossible Foods have also snuck into your local Burger King with menu items like the Impossible Whopper.

”When we see Impossible or Beyond or some of the others come out into market with new products is it continues to open doors for all of us,” said O’Malley. “It’s really cool for us to be a part of this new lifestyle change people are looking at.”

People eating these soy and pea based products may feel good about saving the rainforests, but are these meat alternatives actually good for you? 

If you compare the nutrition of a beyond burger patty to a real beef patty there’s not much difference in calories or protein content. In fact, many of the meatless burger patties harbor the same amount of fats as a real burger.

”You’re going to get the same amount of fat,” said Nicole Kerneen, Registered Dietician at Way of Life Nutrition and Fitness in Wauwatosa. “Are you getting more of a vegetarian or I should say plant-based style of fat? Yes you are, but it’s still coming from fat and you’re just getting a bunch of oil.”

Kerneen says it’s okay to eat them once in a while, but wouldn’t advise using the processed patties as a main source of protein.

”Incorporating these into our diet every now and again is really not a big deal, and it certainly helps with variety and different flavors and things like that but not to rely on these kinds of products all the time,” said Kerneen.

With that in mind, next time you see a plant based burger, don’t be afraid to take a bite into some meaty, yet meatless glory.

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