The animal agriculture industry is, on the whole, not great for the planet Earth. According to some estimates, industrialized animal agriculture is currently responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector — not to mention the large amounts of land and water that it uses up annually. A clean water-minded consumer, for example, can choose to save 1,700 gallons of water simply by substituting one real hamburger with a veggie burger a year.
From a green perspective, veggie burgers are the way to go.
From a taste perspective, unfortunately it is often another story entirely. Good for the planet though they may be, the historical trouble with the average vegetarian or vegan meat substitute is that the substitution is usually not considered very tasty. Veggie burgers, by all but the very committed, are often described as dry, flavorless and akin to trying to eat a coaster. Ketchup improves the situation, as it does most things, but not enough for most people to really consider swapping out a beef burger for its veggie counterpart.
But the team at Don Lee Farms, a family-run, California-based food company, believes it can rehabilitate the less-than-stellar culinary reputation of the veggie burger, with its own bean and seed-based creations. While that description sounds par for the course, Don Lee Farms’ burgers are a bit different — starting with the fact that they are the only veggie burger in the freezer case at Costco that “bleeds” when you cook it. Granted, it’s not blood, it’s beet juice, but the experience seems to go a long way toward conveying authenticity. The burgers also reportedly sizzle on the grill — thanks to organic, vegetable-based fats, similar to traditional beef. The burger is also non-GMO and made without preservatives.
“The fact that our Organic Plant-Based Burger is made with plants and not with science has resonated with people. No one wants to eat a burger hidden with artificial or modified ingredients if they have the choice,” said Danny Goodman, of Don Lee Farms. “They want natural. They want organic. They want real.”
That sentiment is proved perhaps by the fast pace at which Don Lee’s bleeding veggie burgers have exploded. Selling out of mass market vendors like Costco, Walmart, Whole Foods, Wegmans and Stop & Shop nationwide, the burger first met the market in February of 2018, and sold more than a million burgers within 60 days, making it the fastest-growing product in its category.
A little under a year after the launch of the burger, Don Lee is gearing up for the burger’s next phase of business life, global expansion.
“We’ve seen remarkable demand for this product in the United States, far beyond what our initial expectations were,” Goodman said. “The excitement around this burger has been overwhelming and so the natural next step was to bring it to a global audience.”
That global expansion is now underway, according to Goodman — and within the next few months the organic plant-based burger will be in 15 countries, including in Europe, South America and the Caribbean.
The hope, Goodman said, is to bring more customers around to the idea that they can have a meat-free product without having to settle for a taste-free offering — and that this can be made easily available to them without using a lot of space-age and unnatural products in the food itself.
“Remarkably, our burger is the only successful plant-based burger to be free from ingredients not found in nature, ” Goodman said. “As we expand beyond our borders and continue our family tradition of innovation, we will continue to roll out items that bring sustainable choices to a global consumer.”
Meat, Goodman said, and its consumption by humans, is not good for the planet in several measurable ways, but simply telling people not to eat it isn’t sufficient, because human beings like the way that meat tastes, and the experience of cooking it — right down to the sizzling sound as a burger hits the grill. With Don Lee Farms’ alternative, that's an experience consumers can still enjoy.