Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Capri from Santa Clarita, CA. Capri Wonders, “how do scientists and chefs create beyond meat? like the kind of meat that is plant-based.” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Capri!

Do you love biting into a juicy burger? Many people do! There are so many ways to enjoy this dinnertime favorite.Maybe you top your burger with cheese, ketchup, pickles, or onions. You may even place an order for “one hamburger, hold the meat”!

Meatless burgers have been around for a long time. You may have heard them called “veggie burgers.” They’re made from beans and other non-meat ingredients. However, the meatless meat business has been taken by storm by a more recent invention: plant-based meat.

What is plant-based meat? It’s food that looks and tastes a lot like meat but is made from plants. It comes in many forms, such as chickenless nuggets and meatless meatballs. Recently, though, plant-based burgers and other plant-based beef-like products have turned heads. They’re now common in both restaurants and grocery stores. 

What’s in these plant-based options? The specific ingredients depend on who makes them. Several companies, such as Beyond Meat® and Impossible™ Foods, have their own recipes. They often include grains, legumes, and starches. Fats are usually added using coconut oil or cocoa butter. Flavor and color also come from plants like beets and apples.

Many plant-based meats also include genetically modified organisms (GMOs). One example is heme, an ingredient in the Impossible Burger. It’s made from soy and fermented yeast. Heme adds iron to the burgers. It’s also how Impossible Burgers “bleed,” making them look more like burgers made from meat.

How is plant-based meat made? It’s done through a process called extrusion. This involves the hydration, heating, and shearing of ingredients. The complex process changes the structure of the proteins inside each item. This causes the final product to look and taste like meat.

Now we have a better idea of what plant-based meat is. But is it healthy? It may be, according to a 2020 study from Stanford Medicine. It found that eating plant-based meat instead of red meat may lower the risk of heart disease. However, plant-based meat is highly processed. This makes it less healthy than unprocessed fruits and vegetables. People who prefer not to eat GMOs are also likely to avoid plant-based meat.

Some health organizations link red meat to high cholesterol, diabetes, and cancer. Plant-based meat may prove to be a healthier option. High meat consumption is also connected to rising greenhouse gases and deforestation. Many people hope that eating plant-based meat could help reduce these issues and fight climate change.

Have you ever tried a plant-based burger? They’re gaining fans among meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans alike. You may spot these options at your next cookout or visit to the grocery store! You may even see them in some restaurants. Ask a trusted adult to help you decide if they’re right for you.

Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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