The farming of livestock — most of which goes on to become the chicken, beef, and pork lining our grocery shelves — uses about one-third of our global fresh water supply, and a recent study from Bard College in New York suggests that giving up beef would have more of an impact on our carbon footprint than giving up gasoline-run cars. The Better Burger Project, in conjunction with the James Beard Foundation and Spike Mendelsohn, wants to bring the issue of beef consumption’s environmental impact to light by challenging restaurants to create “better” blended burgers.
Blended “graffiti” burgers, as invented by chef Jehangir Mehta, and likely named after his East Village, New York City restaurant, are burgers made with at least 25 percent mushroom blended with the traditional beef; the addition of mushrooms keeps the umami taste of a burger constant while still making a positive environmental impact. The Better Burger Project invites chefs like Top Chef contestant and and owner of Washington D.C. Capitol Hill burger hotspot Good Stuff Eatery, Spike Mendelsohn to add a blended burger recipe to their menus this summer. Then, between Memorial Day weekend and July 31, their customers are invited to upload photos of these blended burger creations to Twitter and Instagram. The chefs with the most digital engagement will get to cook their blended recipe in October at the James Beard house.
“For some people it’s about creating a healthier lifestyle, for others it’s about sustainability or lowering food cost,” said chef Mehta. “For whichever reason you decide to participate, we can make changes for the better. We wish to have 1,000 chefs participate, and we hope they keep their blended burger on the menu forever.”
So far, almost one hundred restaurants have signed up for the challenge, including Del Campo in Washington, D.C.; the Rusty Spoon in Orlando, Florida; Bachi Burger locations nationwide; and The Ainsworth, Delmonico’s, and the Flatiron Room in New York City.