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Consumer Reports, the publication that was known for exhaustively reviewing cars and products long before everyone with a YouTube channel declared themselves an expert, has turned its analytical lens on plant-based ‘meat’ products available at U.S. grocery stores. For a new report published today, the magazine looked at 32 burgers, nuggets, and other offerings from brands large and small.
Each product was assigned a “nutrition score” and “sensory score” by a panel of nutrition experts and taste testers. The scores have a five point scale from “worse” to “better.” No item received the highest possible mark in either nutrition or taste and even those that received a second-best, four-out-of-five mark in one category, performed lower in the other.
Ultimately, Consumer Reports gave it’s highest rankings to Beyond Meat Beyond Burger Plant-Based Patties, BOCA All-American Veggie Burgers, and Impossible Foods Burger Patties in the “beef burger” category; Impossible Foods Chicken Nuggets and Quorn Meatless Nuggets in the “chicken nugget” category; MorningStar Farms Veggie Chick’n Strips in the “chicken pieces” category; Gardein Plant-Based F’sh Filets and Good Catch Plant-Based Fish Burgers in the “fish” category; and Beyond Meat Beyond Breakfast Sausage Plant-Based Patties and MorningStar Farms Incogmeato 100% Plant Protein Breakfast Sausage Links in the “pork sausage” category.
Brian Vines, who wrote about the analysis for the magazine, notes that he was a vegetarian for many years, but found himself eating some animal protein amid the strange days of quarantine. Now that he is back on the plant-based path, he was interested in testing the array of veggie products available at supermarkets that simulate some aspects of familiar animal protein-based dishes.
“Of course, food doesn’t have to taste like meat to taste good,” Vines notes, “And CR’s testers rated several without a meaty taste highly.”
Another observation from the testing: these plant-based meat products do, in fact, consistently cost more than their animal alternatives. At the time of the research, conducted in April 2022, an average pound of ground beef in the U.S. cost $3.99 and a pound of boneless chicken breast cost $4.14. The faux-meets in the review ranged from $5.71 per pound (Tofurky sausage) to $16 per pound (Daring chicken).
That premium may be on the way, out however. “The differential may diminish in coming years if meat prices continue to rise and plant-based meat production becomes more efficient and competitive,” CR writes. “For example, Amazon Fresh just launched a ‘budget friendly’ line of plant-based meat including Chick’n Nuggets for about $6.30 a pound and plant burger patties for $6.40.”