Blending ground beef with mushrooms cuts both calories and carbon emissions. Oh, and lots of folks say it tastes better too.
When I wrote about Sonic trialing a part-beef, part-mushroom burger at select stores, I couldn't help but wonder whether it would take off. After all, most folks hitting up a drive thru restaurant chain aren't there for their health.
That said, the new burger can't have been a complete flop, because Sonic just added it to their menu at all restaurants nationwide. In fact, they launched it in two different variations—The Classic SONIC Signature Slinger (fresh lettuce and tomato, diced onions, crinkle-cut dill pickles, mayo and melted American cheese) and the Bacon Melt SONIC Signature Slinger (crispy bacon, layered with melted cheese and mayo).
Given that these burgers are still 70% beef, I'm sure there will be plenty of people who say this doesn't go far enough. But as the mixed results of my recent foray into the world of the bleeding veggie burger suggests, the brave new word of analog meat substitutes still has a long way to go before it'll convert every carnivore.
As someone who has experimented with blended beef/mushroom burgers at home, I can attest to the fact that 'shrooms can actually enhance the beefy flavor and juiciness of your typical burger. And that may be why Sonic appears to be marketing these as much for their health benefits as their environmental credentials. Scott Uehlein, vice president of product innovation and development for SONIC, put it this way:
“Adding mushrooms right into the burger patty amps up the incredible flavors of the 100-percent pure beef and seasonings you get in each bite. This burger truly raises the bar for every other restaurant.”
Let's hope that a decent number of fast food-loving carnivores agree. Given the fact that some environmentalists are pushing for a 50% cut in meat and dairy consumption by 2050, we can't afford to wait for a mass conversion to vegetarianism before starting to tackle the meat industry's massive carbon footprint. Blended burgers may be a powerful tool in the quest for lower meat consumption as a society.