Christy O’Hanlon discusses the controversial release of Brewdog’s newest creation: “The Hybrid Burger”, which is 50% meat and 50% fake meat.
Embedded between two soft, floury Matcha buns lies a layer of thin, crunchy onion straws, a blanket of melted, creamy, vegan gouda cheese, a generous serving of golden, crispy potato rosti, and a succulent burger patty that’s 50% beef and 50% vegan… “50% beef and 50% vegan?” I hear you cry in shrieks of utter confusion. Admittedly, when I first saw a photo of this so-called burger appear on my newsfeed, I had to check that the date wasn’t 1 April. Once I had firmly established that it was in fact October, it dawned on me that this was no whoopee-cushion April Fools’ prank. Brewdog was serious and had just established itself as the Dr. Frankenstein of the burger world.
Described by Brewdog as a burger for “those who want to reduce their [meat] intake and their footprint on the environment”, “The Hybrid Burger” aims to bridge the gap between meat-eaters and vegetarians/vegans. The burger uses entirely vegan ingredients, however, the burger patty itself is a 50/50 hybrid of regular beef and Beyond Meat’s fake beef substitute. Despite the intentions of Brewdog being positive, in regards to reducing meat consumption and promoting a flexitarian diet for regular meat lovers, Brewdog have only caused confusion and controversy with this latest menu addition. Many vegetarians and vegans view the idea of “hybrid” foods as a distraction to the actual goal of removing meat from our diets. It is validly argued that a burger containing any percentage of meat, no matter how small its traces, cannot be described as plant-based. The discussions around animal agriculture and environmental impact have meant that mixing meat with plant-based substitutes is a growing trend in the food industry. As more and more people become aware of our climate crisis, the justifiable pressure to reduce our meat consumption grows. However, evidently most people aren’t ready to go cold turkey (pardon the pun) just yet, which is assumedly why Brewdog and other companies alike have turned to hybrid meats, which provides people with a slightly less guilt-soaked experience when they choose to consume animal products.
Brewdog, as a brand, already have a controversial history, which led many people to believe that the announcement of The Hybrid Burger was a publicity stunt (or them simply jumping on the bandwagon of yet another movement). Previously, the brand faced backlash when, for International Women’s Day, they released a pink beer aimed to raise awareness over gender inequality and the wage gap. The beer was sold at a discounted price to anyone who identified as female, which of course led to disruption. The stereotypical packaging used for the beer sent a confusing message that screamed “Let’s fight gender inequality… with more gender stereotypes!” It seems as though Brewdog are sending a similarly confusing message to consumers with The Hybrid Burger; “Let’s fight climate change with more… meat!” Images of a mad scientist inside a Brewdog test lab frantically chopping kale and beef whilst laughing like a villain plagues my mind.
Overall, it does seem that Brewdog are trying to appeal to the mass market of customers that just aren’t ready to ditch meat yet: the flexitarians among us who care for the environment, but not quite enough to fully quit their meat cravings. Although it is admirable to anyone who takes steps to change their diet towards a more eco-friendly alternative, it seems like such baby steps for a popular and lucrative business to take. Rather than spending time and money on these “hybrid” meats, it could be more beneficial and morally correct for brands to invest into creating realistic and tasty meat substitutes to entice our flexitarian friends over to a more sustainable diet. Only time will tell, however, if the exploration into hybrid meats will be worthwhile and if Brewdog were actually on to something all along (doubt it). Alas, until then, I think we can all agree that the true crime in this burger is the Matcha tea burger bun.