Are beef burgers unhealthy

Meatless burgers put to the test : How healthy and climate-friendly are veggie burgers really?

Everyone is talking about burgers. But more and more people are giving up meat and ordering vegetarian alternatives in restaurants. The situation is similar in the supermarkets. When Lidl temporarily added the vegetable burger from Beyond Meat to its range, the burgers were immediately sold out in many places. Lidl and Aldi now have their own meatless burgers in their range. Food companies have also recognized the trend. Nestlé has been selling its vegan “Incredible Burger” under the “Garden Gourmet” brand since April. In the meantime, the group even had to introduce an additional shift in order to be able to meet the demand.

More and more people want to eat healthily. Polls show that. Federal Food Minister Julia Klöckner now wants to make it easier for citizens to make healthy choices. Klöckner plans to have the Nutriscore printed on food packaging in the future, which shows whether a food is good or bad for health.

But what about the burgers? The consumer center (VZ) Hamburg did the test. She compared 20 different veggie burgers with the classic ground beef patty.

Good business

The market for vegan variants is large. This is particularly evident from the IPO of the US food producer Beyond Meat. On the first day of trading in May, the share rose 150 percent. The paper is now at $ 145; the company issued it for $ 25.

Nestlé was able to sell its “Incredible Burger” made from soy to McDonald’s, where it is now available as Vegan TS in all 1,500 German restaurants of the chain. From this month onwards, Nestlé's vegan mince should also be available in supermarkets. Nestlé has sold almost seven million burgers in retail outlets and restaurants so far. The market is growing. And this, although actually only about eight million people eat a vegetarian and 1.3 million Germans eat a vegan diet, and the meat consumption per capita in this country is constant at around 60 kilograms.

What's inside

The VZ found no major differences between meat-free and meat-containing burgers in terms of calories and fat content. However, some of the herbal products differ greatly from one another. In order to come as close as possible to the consistency and appearance of meat, the imitations sometimes contain many additives and flavors. The classic minced meat patty, on the other hand, usually consists of 98 percent beef, salt and spices. Silke Schwartau from VZ Hamburg is not surprised by this difference: “Somehow, pea proteins have to be held together.” However, the consumer advocates did not find any dangerous additives. Some of the burgers contained highly processed concentrates made from soy, pea protein isolate, or beetroot juice as a blood substitute. Three of the burgers contained synthetically produced ascorbic acid. Several studies show that ascorbic acid can be harmful to health in high doses. Because of the plant-based ingredients, veggie burgers also contain more intestinal-friendly fiber.

Which is healthier?

Red meat has been criticized by nutritionists. There is suspicion that more than 500 grams of red or heavily processed meat per week increases the risk of colon cancer. In addition, many view the saturated fatty acids contained therein critically. It is said that excessive consumption increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, new research has shown that red meat may be better than its reputation after all. In addition: Diet advisor Alissa Rumsey warned on US television that the proportion of sodium and saturated fat in meatless burgers is similar. This is due to coconut oil, which is found in five of the twenty burgers tested.

What's better for the environment?

When it comes to water consumption and deforestation, the veggie burger is better off. One kilo of beef takes around 15,000 liters of water, while one kilo of vegetables takes 500 liters. "While the production of a meat burger uses around 2400 liters of water, the water footprint of a soy burger is around 158 liters," says Nestlé.

The cultivation of soy for animal feed is also harmful. The Albert Schweitzer Foundation, which advocates better animal welfare, speaks of 70 to 75 percent of the world's soy harvest that is used as animal feed. The bean could feed more people in a direct way. The consumer cannot see where the soy for the veggie burger comes from. “It should actually be on it,” says Schwartau.

What about animal welfare?

When it comes to meat in ready meals or in restaurants, customers do not find out how the animals lived. The VZ assumes that around 76 percent of all cattle are kept without free access. Organic meat burgers would do better because there are more animal-friendly guidelines for them. Consumers should also be careful with the veggie burgers. Because four of the burgers tested contain egg protein, which can also come from factory farming.


Plant-based burgers are “a good alternative to meat - despite additives,” say consumer advocates. If the additives are unsure of you, it is better to switch to burgers made from legumes or vegetables. The consumer advocates emphasize the positive effects on the environment. A family of four could save 700 kilograms of carbon dioxide by going without meat once a week.

However, it remains to be seen whether the veggie burgers can continue to be called burgers. For months, the EU Parliament has received a motion from the agricultural subcommittee that veggie burgers should no longer be referred to as burgers. The reason: The term “burger” would mislead consumers. However, Schwartau is not aware of any complaints on the subject. “The burgers have to have some name,” says the consumer advocate.

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