The Better Burger Challenge

July 2, 2017

This Fourth of July, declare your independence from factory-farmed meat, and grill yourself a burger that is better for ranchers, animals, the environment, and you.

The Better Burger Challenge, launched by Friends of the Earth and Turning Green, is inspiring home cooks, chefs, and schools to craft burgers made from less and better beef, or no meat at all. For beef burgers, that means using at least 30% less meat, sourced from farms that use regenerative and humane practices, and supplementing your patty with organic plant-based foods.         

The benefits of using sustainably sourced meat and veggies in your burger are many, from supporting local ranchers and fighting climate change to promoting animal welfare and personal health, but the results can also be delicious.

Tips for Building a Better Burger

Here are a few tips for crafting a better burger, inspired by the Better Burger Challenge.

Start with better meat. If you’re using beef in your burger, choose grass-fed, humanely raised, and organic beef from cattle raised on pasture, without antibiotics or hormones, and from ranchers using regenerative management practices that give back to the land. The money saved by using less meat can help to purchase better quality. See CUESA’s animal welfare guide for labels to look for, as well as the list of local ranchers at our farmers markets below.

Build in plant-based deliciousness. Blend your meat or veggie patties with organic vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, beets, onions, garlic, and herbs like parsley or oregano. Mushrooms are a favorite choice because they mimic the umami mouthfeel of meat, and they are also high in fiber. Tofu, brown rice and other grains, and legumes (beans, lentils, etc.) are also great to bulk up your burger while adding healthful flavor. See recipes for Better Beef Burgers and Better Veggie Burgers.

Don’t overdo grass-fed beef. Cooking grass-fed beef is different from grain-fed beef. It requires about 30% less cooking time (otherwise it tends to dry out), and is best served medium-rare. Because grass-fed is lower in fat, you may want to coat your burger in olive oil or another light oil before cooking. Find more cooking tips here.

Get creative with garnishes and condiments. Go beyond the standard ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles. The famers market offers a variety of vege-forward options to dress your burger: basil, arugula, spinach, avocado, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, pesto, salsa, hummus, kimchi, and kraut. Don’t miss heirloom tomatoes, hitting the farmers market soon.

Explore and experiment. See our farmers market shopping tips below, and find recipes and resources at the Better Burger Challenge. Happy grilling!

For local farms and recipe ideas, see CUESA’s farmers market grilling guide.

Burger photo from Friends of the Earth. 

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