Healthy Beef Cow - © indianapublicmedia.org

Can Burger Competition Reignite Interest In Meat?

The protein sphere spotlight has been captured by plant-based products lately. And real meat has been reduced to a supporting actor in the great human dietary drama. But Ontario burger makers are planning to rekindle interest in real meat…

Contermporary Classic Burger - © Burger KingA classic, contemporary burger: The patty is totally overwhelmed by
the toppings. The burger makers are determined to return
the patty to its rightful place of prominence in the bun!

Keep your eyes peeled between now and this October for further news about Ontario’s Ultimate Burger Competition, described in the news release as, “an opportunity for burger processors to showcase their expertise and craftsmanship in creating the perfect patty.”

An ambitious goal, you say? Yes. Partly because I and thousands of other food commentators have long thought a.) that everything new and creative that could be be said about the western world’s half dozen or so staple meats has been said. And b.) that real meat has had its day. Not so, says Meat & Poultry Ontario (MPO), which is sponsoring the Ultimate Burger Competition in cooperation with London’s Fanshawe College, home to one of Canada’s leading culinary education programs.

What’s the deal?

The competition is designed as, “an opportunity for burger processors to showcase their expertise and craftsmanship in creating the perfect patty. MPO is on a mission to find the best burgers in six categories: beef, veal, poultry, lamb, pork, and other [protein blends].”

The idea is to promote the folks who produce pre-made burger patties (and presumably, loose ground meat for sausages and other types of dishes) for the catering, institutional and restaurant sectors.

“If you are a processor who is passionate about selecting the finest cuts of meat, grinding and blending flavors to perfection, and mastering the art of patty making, this is your chance to shine. MPO’s panel of judges, including industry experts and connoisseurs, will evaluate each patty based on taste, texture, and quality.”

Sounds like a pretty fancy set-up for burgers…

Turns out that burgers remain one of the main categories of fast and mass-catered foods in the foodservice universe. The competition is more about  the flavour than the form, though. Which might explain why so many retail burger pushers large and small spend so much time and effort creating, testing and promoting ‘new’ burgers which are actually just the same old patties with new combos of stuff on top.

The emphasis in the competition is clearly going to be on the taste, texture, appearance and other essential characteristics of the patties themselves. And that alone constitutes something refreshingly new in the burger realm.

A hidden agenda?

I also have a hunch that the MPO is using the competition to light a fire under its members to get up to speed on the new dimensions of burger crafting and marketing that the inevitable switch to plant-based proteins will both enable and require. All that’s missing is a trumpet fanfare:

“We are thrilled to launch Ontario’s Ultimate Burger Competition and shine a spotlight on the remarkable talent and skills of our province’s burger processors,” said Franco Naccarato, executive director at MPO. “This competition not only celebrates their craft, but also highlights the incredible flavours and quality of Ontario’s burgers. We encourage all processors to seize this opportunity and join us in this exciting journey to find Ontario’s Ultimate Burger.”

The organization is, clearly, trying to bolster its members’ self image as major, meaningful players in the foodservice sector. In other words, “Plant-based protein is coming, but there are still new burger horizons to be explored. And burgers will always be here, front and centre in the foodservice picture, regardless of what they’re made from!”

The question is, will the big burger makers be up to the challenge?

The burger guys and gals are being offered ample time to develop and perfecct their contest entries. Judging will take place on July 19 at Fanshawe College in London, Ont. The winners will be announced at MPO’s annual gala on October 21 in Muskoka, Ont.

My take

I can’t wait to find out what the judges and the MPO folks choose as the winner of this intriguing contest. Their determinations may in fact set the course for burgers on into the meatless future…

~ Maggie J.

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