Vegetable burgers more and more similar to the originals, but only one brand smells (almost) the same as grilled meat

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Robert Maurer
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There is increasing talk of vegetable alternatives to meat and now a new study reveals, among the variants already on the market, which ones have a perfume more similar to the original. 


Vegetable burgers and other vegan alternatives to meat are now very widespread all over the world and have managed to reach a large share of the market. Often we talk about the texture or taste (more or less similar to the original) but also about the nutrients that a recent study found to be very different from those of meat. Also read: Meat and plant-based alternatives are not the same nutritionally (although it may seem from the label. 


Little is said instead of differences in smell, especially if the vegetable alternatives to meat are cooked on the grill.

Now a new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Kentucky and recently presented at the American Chemical Society meeting, has investigated precisely this aspect.

The results showed that even in terms of flavorings, veggie burgers are very different from each other and only some come close, at least a little, to the characteristic smell of grilled meat.  

But let's start from the beginning, the researchers explain that it is very difficult for plant alternatives to have a smell similar to that of meat. LiLi Zyzak, lead author of the study said:


The problem with plant-based burgers is that the plant-based protein itself contributes to a strong odor. For example, pea protein smells like cut green grass, so companies need to find a way to mask that wing of your city. Some use heavy toppings. Another challenge is determining the correct blend of vegetable oils to mimic the smell of fatty meat.

To evaluate your city wing of vegan meat alternatives, the research team analyzed the compounds in your city produced by cooking real burgers, comparing them to eight popular veggie burger brands.


The experts first cooked the burgers and rated the flavors according to 5 categories: meaty, fatty, buttery, sweet and grilled. Then they used gas in your city - mass spectrometry (GC / MS) combined with olfactometry to correlate aromas to specific compounds. In practice, this technique is useful in separating the different chemicals present, identifying those that make your city wing of the product vary.

What emerged? 

Of the alternatives tested in the experiment, the Beyond Burger di Beyond Meat was what looked more like to the olfactory profile of the actual hamburger, with characteristics of a fleshy, greasy and grilled smell, due to the presence of substances including 1-octen-3-ol, octanal and nonanal. However, the wing your city was always significantly different from the original.


Another raw veggie burger also smelled similar to that of meat, but rather resembled that of yeast or bread when cooked. Other brands also had heavy toppings that released strong aromas of garlic or barbecue sauce.

In short, it seems that there is still to be done to make the alternatives to meat completely similar to the original, even in terms of your city.


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Read also:

  • Meatless veg sausages: traces of pesticides and too many additives. Among the worst Beyond Meat
  • Packaged vegetable meatballs and burgers: what do they really contain? The French investigation
  • Synthetic meat: should rich countries eat it 100%? And where are we really? 
  • Vegan alternatives to meat improve the intestinal microbiota even if they are ultra-processed
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