Sponsored by AdvancePierre® Foods
Blended burgers are popping up like mushrooms on foodservice menus around the country.
From K-12 foodservice accounts to trendy fine-dining establishments, an increasing number of operators and their customers are discovering the virtues of blended beef.
Mixing ground beef with other ingredients such as grains, legumes or finely chopped mushrooms offers nutritional benefits in the form of added nutrients and reduced sodium and fat. In addition, it helps ease the burden that beef production places on the environment, advocates of blended burgers say.
“The blended burger concept is a win on all fronts — it allows facilities to use meat that is more sustainable without incurring an extra cost; it is better for the environment and better for public health,” says Jen Obadia, the eastern regional director for the food program of Health Care Without Harm, a global organization that works with the health care industry to promote public and environmental health.
The U.S. division of HCWH recently organized a campaign in which hospitals around the country tested blended burgers in March, which was National Nutrition Month.
“It was a way to allow people to have that taste they crave — young people still love their burgers — but to do it in a way that was both better for their health and for the environment,” says Obadia.
One blended burger that some of the participating hospitals offered in the promotion contained about 30 percent less sodium and 10 to 15 percent less fat than traditional beef burgers, she says.
“Some hospitals said it [the blended burger] now meets nutritional needs of patients, whereas it could not before because of restrictions on sodium and fat,” says Obadia.
Offering burgers made with a beef-mushroom blend “is a great idea,” says Suzy Badaracco, president of research firm Culinary Tides. “It ties in with many trends.”
Blended burgers tap into consumers’ growing interest in “flexitarianism,” she notes, which leads them to consume less meat. She cites a 2016 Harris poll, for example, which found that while just 3.3 percent of the population is vegetarian, 37 percent of Americans sometimes order vegetarian items when dining out.
Greg Weiss, executive chef at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Northampton, Massachusetts, says he has been getting rave reviews from his customers about his blended burgers, which he buys pre-mixed in bulk from a supplier.
He recently sampled the blended burgers in the form of sliders and received nothing but favorable reviews after giving out more than 300 of the items, which were made with a blend of 60 percent beef and 40 percent raw, white mushrooms.
“People said they were moist; they tasted just like beef and they would not have known the difference,” says Weiss.
The hospital has since added the blended burgers, along with other blended beef dishes, to the cafeteria’s menu of rotating specials. Other dishes Weiss has prepared with the blended beef include meatballs, American chop suey and meatloaf.
The blended beef items are being offered in the retail cafeteria for now, but Weiss is exploring the possibility of putting the blended burgers and the blended meatloaf on the menu for patients as well.
He says diners are likely attracted to the blended burgers for the taste, and view the healthy attributes of the mixture as a bonus.
“People will buy burgers either way, but they are happy to hear that it is healthier,” says Weiss.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, recently added blended burgers to the hospital’s cafeteria menu after sampling them in partnership with a staff dietitian as part of the center’s Live Well/Work Well employee wellness program. The burgers are supplied frozen by a local butcher who blends the beef with mushrooms.
Those who sampled the burgers were asked if they would buy blended burgers again and why, and the response was enthusiastic, says Deborah Keane, director of food and nutrition services.
“People loved them,” she says. “The response from many was that the taste was very good, and there were also others who said they feel guilty about eating a whole burger, and this was a way to get some beef without eating a full portion.”
The mushroom burger, as it is labeled on the menu, is offered alongside the cafeteria’s all-beef burger and veggie burger options. It is available in the main retail dining room, but is accessible to patients as well.
AdvancePierre® Foods, a supplier of blended burgers and other products to the foodservice industry, offers multiple creative variations for serving blended burgers that embrace on-trend flavors and recipes.
An Open-Face Hot Broccoli Rabe Burger, for example, features mushroom-beef burgers served on toasted garlic bread and topped with broccoli rabe and shredded Asiago cheese (or Romano or Parmesan).
Blended burgers also can be given an ethnic treatment, such as AdvancePierre Foods Moroccan Carrot Salad Burger, served on toasted pita bread and topped with a shredded carrot salad seasoned with lemon juice, cilantro, mint, cumin and paprika.
For more blended burger recipe ideas and other foodservice products and solutions, visit apffoodservice.com.