When to Go Organic:  Veggie Burgers department

Not just Veggie Burgers- Organic Veggie Burgers

With my recent awareness of the Cornucopia Institute’s Organic Scorecards, I’ve started making changes in my food choices.  This is a very challenging process, as you might imagine, because who likes giving up products that they’ve been buying (and eating) for years?  I’m now in the process of changing out one of my mainstay veggie burgers.

First, a distinction between making ethical choices and environmental/health ones:

It’s one thing to give up meat if you’re a vegetarian, or animal products if you’re a vegan, for ethical reasons; but it’s another to give up products simply because they aren’t organic.  I don’t use the word “simply” here lightly- as I’ve mentioned in a prior post, for farmers to acquire the “organic” designation, they need to jump through numerous bureaucratic hoops, some of which aren’t really relevant to what really counts: that their produce is sustainably-grown, and pesticide-free.  As long as they have those qualities (which of course one must take on faith to a certain degree), I’m totally fine with the fact that a given stall at my local farmers’ market is not organic.

After discovering the Cornucopia’s Cereal Scorecard, which – let’s be honest – I’m still adapting to, I decided I should check out their stance on veggie burgers and fake meat products, or what they call “meat alternatives.”  And it was there, alas, that I realized my beloved Dr. Praeger’s  California veggie burger, which I’ve been eating for roughly eight years, are not organic.  And it’s not just that they aren’t organic that’s the issue, it’s that they’re very likely made with soybeans that are hexane-extracted; in other words, soybeans that have been processed through the use of , a toxic chemical that’s “a byproduct of gasoline refining,” according to the Cornucopia Institute.

I know that’s hard to hear, and for some even hard to believe, but the Cornucopia Institute is a non-profit research organization that, unless it’s involved in payola (which is extremely unlikely), has no stake in who it calls out as being non-organic and likely toxically-produced; it seems to me that the only thing they bow down to is the truth (feel free to do your own research- if you learn anything new or eyebrow-raising, I’d love to hear about it).

So, friends, at last we come to the harsh truth: I’m eliminating a staple food from my diet, in this case Dr. Praeger’s veggie burger, which I especially liked for it’s a mixture of whole soybeans and vegetables that you can see right there in the burger; no mysterious soy protein isolates, or textured vegetable protein, or any other funky, less-than-desirable meat alternative ingredients.  With a well-cooked Dr. Praeger, some ketchup, mustard, and lettuce, I had a satisfying main course.

Organic and Environmentally Sound

One thing I won’t miss about them is how long they took to cook; I prefer to grill my burgers in the broiler, and the Dr. Praeger’s veggie burgers take about 20 minutes to grill fully on both sides.  So what’s my replacement?  Until I start making veggie burgers myself (I’ve done it, and it’s a very labor-intensive process), I’m transitioning toward making Trader Joe’s Organic Tofu Burger my new go-to veggie burger.  It gets a firm thumbs-up as being USDA Organic from Cornucopia, but figuring out how to cook them is a challenge.

Thus far I’ve cooked them three times: the first time, through luck, actually worked out the best: sitting in the broiler until browned nicely on the outside, but still moist in the middle.  The second time I broiled them, they got a little too burnt and lost their moisture (my g/f barely touched hers before giving up); the last time I tried the frying pan, which left decently browned outside, but undercooked within, tasting more like barely sautéed tofu rounds.  Next time, I’m going to try oiling both sides, and will do my best to replicate that first go-round.  I’m still early in the learning curve with these puppies, but I’ll get it down soon. In the meantime, I can relax about where the tofu comes from, and just worry about the cooking.

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