Beyond Meat in Amsterdam: A Review

I’ve been closely following the movement towards more plant-based foods, and am extremely excited to see how much activity is happening in this area in the last year or two.

More and more athletes in particular are talking about using plants (or mostly plants) to sustain themselves through their rigorous training regimens, and I think it’s an extremely important message to be sending. Especially in light of all of the new information around how much of an impact meat consumption has on not only our environment, but also on our own bodies.

Like many of my friends, I was raised eating meat and potatoes at every meal. But since switching to a primarily plant-based diet while preparing for upcoming mountaineering expeditions, I have found my performance and general health to have improved drastically. It is for this reason (among many others) that I will continue to promote plant-based diets for athletes and normal people alike. And I’m happy to report that the world is (finally) catching on. There is so much more to come in this space. We’ve come a long way, but still have a long way to go.

Importantly, most of the companies creating the new generation of meatless products aren’t trying to do away with meat entirely, as they, too, realize that this might not be entirely realistic given current consumer behavior. But what they do know is that if they can simply displace a percentage of current meat consumption with plants, while showing people that it does not mean a sacrifice on taste, then they will have played a very important part.

With that said, I have been excitedly following a few of the companies which are leading the charge on meat-replacement products, which are touted to be so good that even meat eaters can’t tell the difference. These brands appeal just as much to meat eaters as they do to vegans. Specifically, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have been leading the way in the U.S., and both are now starting to expand internationally. (Another interesting company (but a bit further off) is Holland-based Mosa Meat.) Both Beyond and Impossible have a very impressive roster of investors, athlete ambassadors, and celebrity-turned-venture-capitalists (I’m looking at you, Leo DiCaprio!) taking note, and the spread of these movements can no longer be ignored. Most recently, Beyond Meat has just filed for IPO on Nasdaq. Exciting times.

It only made sense then that I go to try the Beyond Burger as it is being presented here in the Netherlands, and see what my impressions were. The Beyond Burger has only just started expanding to Europe, and I wanted to see how it differed from the presentation in the U.S. (if at all). I was also curious to see if people in Europe have an appetite for these types of foods as much as Americans are starting to, or would I find the venue to be completely empty?

Other things I wanted to find out: Why did they choose this particular venue to launch the Beyond Burger in Amsterdam? Is the offering hidden on the menu or is it prominently placed? Are people actually ordering it or is it well behind it’s meatier peers? How is it being served - do you have options, or is there only one way to order up your BB? And how does it actually taste? Does it truly feel like it could be meat, or is it just another blah rubbery bean “veggie” burger? All pressing questions in my investigation.

Thrill Grill Amsterdam

Thrill Grill Amsterdam

thrill grill amsterdam

I high tailed it over to Thrill Grill and here were my takeaways:

1) Cool venue choice. Not sure how much thought went into the decision to roll out Beyond at Thrill Grill in Amsterdam, but it’s a posh, welcoming venue and there are two different locations, making it accessible and a fun experience. A good feeling the moment you walk in the door; we are off to a good start.

thrill grill amsterdam beyond meat
thrill grill amsterdam

2) Prominent marketing. The second I walked in the door, I was met with not one but three signs / marketing indicators that Beyond Meat was being served here. In fact, I joked that the restaurant should just be called Beyond Grill, as I noticed more of the Beyond products than I did the restaurant’s original ones. A multi page spread catalog was placed on top of each menu at the table, which I think says a lot for a place that prides themselves on selling meat burgers.

Clearly they are fully embracing the plant-based burger without hesitation, which was rad to see.

thrill grill amsterdam beyond meat
thrill grill amsterdam beyond meat

3) Multitude of options. I was happy to see that there wasn’t just one way to try the Beyond Burger. There was one exclusively vegan burger option, which came with a fun piri piri sauce and a vegan bun. I ordered that for starters.

But you could also replace ANY burger on the menu with a Beyond Burger, but keep the non-vegan toppings. You still want the cheese? No problem. Can’t do without that sizzling piece of bacon? Sure thing. Still want mayo? No problemo. Let’s call it a perfect compromise for the people trying to eat less meat, but who still aren’t quite ready to give up some of their non-vegan indulgences.

Hey, it’s better than nothing.

We ordered the fully vegan Beyond Burger with piri piri sauce and the traditional cheeseburger (replaced with a BB), but still adorned with cheese, and all the normal fixings - plus some fun veggie sides.

beyond meat amsterdam thrill grill
thrill grill amsterdam beyond meat

4) It tastes great - and could easily be mistaken for meat! The first comment out of my mouth was, “wow, you truly can barely tell it isn’t meat.” And you know why? Here’s my take: meat, especially in a burger format, is *USUALLY* a vehicle for TOPPINGS, spices and flavors. It’s why you rarely see someone sit down just to eat a plain old burger by itself. Ain’t nobody eating a burger for that purpose.

They’re eating it for the total package. So when you put a Beyond Burger into a bun, still include some cheese (or not), and then add in all of your other toppings, WITHOUT sacrificing consistency, you can honestly not tell the difference. To me it’s the same as if you like ranch flavoring. You don’t really care if that ranch flavor/taste is on Doritos, Cheeze-it’s, rice cakes, you name it. You just know you like the combination of some crunch + those flavors in your mouth. This kinda feels like the same thing. Meat-textured burger, ketchup, sauce, bun, paired with fries. It does not matter. Yet it does: it’s so much better for you, Earth, the cows… the list goes on.

And let me be clear: this is NOTHING like an over-salty frozen vegetarian burger of old. And to understand why, it is important to understand a bit of the backstory. Let’s call it the MOB: the Making Of the Burger.

To make these proprietary round wheels of burgery goodness, Beyond’s team aren’t just throwing a bunch of ingredients into a bowl and seeing what happens. No: an entire team of 40+ scientists and years of lab testing have gone into composing this burger, and it shows. There is real science in what they are doing, and a truly dedicated effort to obtain a noteworthy nutritional profile, without sacrificing what ultimately matters most to consumers: TASTE.

Beyond is doing something entirely different. And they aren’t sitting still; they are constantly iterating on their recipe, and innovation is in their DNA.

My final take: barring any prohibitive regulatory hurdles (read more here), I expect to see Beyond around for a very long time, and continuing to innovate in this space. They have set the bar high. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Plant-based Athletes to follow:

Alex Honnold (a Beyond Meat ambassador!), world class record-setting climber

Kilian Jornet & Emilie Forsberg, ultrarunners & mountaineers

Lucy Bartholomew, ultrarunner, recent Western States winner

Steph Davis, world class climber

And some others I haven’t mentioned above: Plant Powered Athletes You Need To Know

And a great podcast resource for vegan athletes: No Meat Athlete

Some other resources on Beyond Meat and plant-based trends:

Seven Meaty Takeaways from the Beyond Meat IPO SEC Filing

Plant Based Food Maker Beyond Meat Files for 100M IPO

This Top-Secret Food Will Change the Way You Eat

Beyond Burger Launches Availablity Across 25,000 Outlets Worldwide

Beyond Meat is Having a Global Influence on How Brands Merchandise Vegan Protein

The Importance of the Food and Beverage Sector for the Sustainable Development Goals

New Meat Categories? Meatless Targets “Hybrid” Meat Protein Platforms

UN Brands Meat The 'World's Most Urgent Problem'

Missouri and France Unite - To Suppress Plant Based Meat

The Growing Acceptance of Veganism

We’re Moving Closer to a 1:1 Ratio of Animal-Based and Vegan Foods, Say Industry Experts

Carnivore King Chef Francis Mallmann Sees a Meat-Free Future

How We Fell Out of Love With Milk

Lab-Grown Meat Will Be on the Market in 2021

Large Companies Are “More Open Than I’ve Ever Seen Before” to Food System Change

Can we end animal farming by the end of the century?

The Government’s Role in the Rise of Lab-Grown Meat

Meet the Plant Based Protein Poised to Sustainabilize the Industry

Vegan Oatly Exceeds Sales Targets After 'Like Milk But Made For Humans' Campaign

Impossible Foods' Bleeding Burgers To Make Grocery Store Debut In 2019

Atlas BioMed Gut Health Test Review: Turd-ally Cool Data

What exactly is the gut microbiome?  In short, it is a term which refers to the trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in your gut.  In recent years, studies have increasingly shown that our microbiome plays a critical role in immune-related, complex diseases, as well as the regulation of predisposition to other diseases.  We may have taken our gut's functionality for granted in the past, but we shouldn't: our gut is responsible for digesting our food, producing certain vitamins, regulating our immune system, and keeping us healthy by protecting us against disease-causing bacteria.  It's what keeps us GOING (literally) and HEALTHY.  

I first found out about Atlas BioMed when I had an ad targeted to me on Instagram or Facebook after I had spent a morning reading about gut health.

As someone who has had chronic health and inflammation problems (is it IBS? Crohn's disease? PCOS? The verdict is still out...), and has been upping the training for some bigger upcoming mountain aspirations, I've been trying to use more data/evidence-based medicine to inform my lifestyle choices, so this product/service seemed to fit the bill.   Atlas BioMed was kind enough to provide me with a free Listen to Your Gut microbiome test to try out.  And it was pretty easy to do: it only took 5 unglamorous minutes of at-home collection, a trip to the local post, and an 8 week wait for results (which was totally worth the wait for all this fun DATA!!). 

Here are the biggest takeaways from my experience/results:

1) MICROBIOME DIVERSITY:  Score was 6 out of 10.  The results section actually seems to indicate to me that 6 out of 10 places me in a very good category. The overachiever in me on the other hand wonders why I'm not up at a 7 or 8.  But what is the actual maximum, I wonder?  I've seen pro athletes end up with similar results, so maybe I need to just get over it.  Or do I?

With a very heavy vegetarian / plant-based diet, and recently consuming what is probably the cleanest diet I've eaten in years (no more late night crisps!), I expected this to be higher. But maybe what this has taught me is that clean is not always complete. We require not only healthy, plant-based foods, but a diversity of them, in order to ensure we are meeting all of our dietary needs and checking the boxes on each and every necessary vitamin. Based off of the food recommendations to increase this diversity, I should be eating a lot more of the below yummy fruits and veg.  OK by me.  What is neat: they send you weekly recommendations to improve your biome and each week they are different, so it gives me an excuse to try new weekly recipes incorporating recommendations.

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2) NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES:  My areas of weakness are Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and Vitamin K.  This is not uncommon in people who eat plant-based and avoid dairy like myself as these vitamins can be found in certain foods such as milk, meat, eggs, nuts, enriched flour, as well as green vegetables. Easy enough, as Atlas tells you exactly what foods you can eat to improve this. I think I'll also throw a few supplements into my Amazon shopping cart to see if I can't get these vitamins to a little bit closer to normal levels.

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3) DISEASE RISKS:  My results list a few diseases (diabetes 2, colitis, Crohn's disease) as "very low risk" for me, which I gather means I should not be too worried as at the same time, Atlas indicates that my current diet is very good at protecting against these very diseases. Not sure what to do with this information other than to store it in the back of my mind, but if I'm doing everything I can now to prevent it, then I think I'm good to go. Wish this had a bit more data behind what's driving the information (Atlas does give a disclaimer that this should not be taken as medical advice, but merely as insights/suggestions/things to be aware of).

4) GUT FLORA TYPE:  The most amusing part of the test for me is that they put you into three categories of gut flora.  Large-scale metagenomic studies have identified "enterotypes": stable combinations of bacteria co-existing in communities.  Each person's microbiome falls into one of these three groups, which correspond with different styles of nutrition.  Atlas says that your microbiome type can change should you significantly modify your diet or be subjected to external factors.  Supposedly, I am a VILLAGE PEASANT.  Whatever that means :).

My biggest takeaway is that my body seems to be pretty good with fiber, and I eat a lot of it (beans, beans, the magical fruit...), so all good.

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The categories go as follows.

Urban Citizen:

Bacteroides dominate this type of microbiome, where they represent 80% of the ecosystem on average, meaning that there is a lack of diversity. Other bile-resistant genera present in this cluster include Parabacteroides, Paraprevotella and Odoribacter. Some researchers associate the first type with the "Western diet" that is rich in simple sugars, animal fats and protein. This cluster is similar to the first enterotype described by M. Arumugam (Arumugam et al., 2011).

Village Peasant:

Dominant genera of bacteria present in the third microbiome type include Eubacterium, Dorea, Ruminococcus, Anaerostipes, Blautia, unclassified Lachnospiraceae and, to a lesser extent, Collinsella. Due to the increased representation of Firmicutes, this cluster is good at producing butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid with anti-inflammatory properties. It is common in people who consume a lot of resistant starches and dietary fibre, like the rural Russian population. These bacteria are "picky" and eat only specific types of food. This cluster is similar to the third enterotype described by M. Arumugam (Arumugam et al., 2011).


Prevotella dominate this type of microbiome, which is common in isolated tribespeople from the Amazon and Africa. Their diet is rich in plant fibre with hardly any simple sugars, meat or fat. In Europe, the second type is mostly found in vegetarians. This cluster corresponds with the second enterotype described by M. Arumugam (Arumugam et al., 2011).

I'm looking forward to seeing how Atlas Biomed tweaks their results and data over time, based off of customer feedback and improvements in testing abilities.  Data is a sure fire way to ensure we are achieving optimal nutrition / gut health and I love and fully support any platform or technology which is making this available to everybody. 

My only hope is that the next time I take the test, my tests and biome diversity will be improved and I won't just experience data deja-poo (you didn't think I would end this without at least one more poo pun did you?) 

Overall, I found the test interesting, informative, and fun.  Rating: A-*   

(*simply because poop tests are gross and always will be)