Could the latest burger innovation revolutionise our barbecues?

Thursday 22nd June

By Mark Howarth

Former deputy editor of the Scottish Sunday Express, now an established freelance journalist, specialising in home affairs. A regular contributor to national newspapers on the subject of nutrition and strategies to combat national deficiencies. Co-author of a study that discovered a link between mineral content of drinking water and incidence of alcoholic liver disease in England. Contact at

As trends towards eating more plant-based diets and veganism are on the rise and game-changing protein replacements are coming onto the market such as Beyond Meat’s bleeding plant-based burger patties, it’s no surprise that the meat industry is looking for ways to keep up with this changing tide. Journalist Mark Howarth got wind of a new innovation which scientists claim to be an effective strategy to produce healthier burgers. During his investigation he interviewed our very own Founder and CEO Nadia El Hadery alongside other industry experts so we thought we’d share his story. Without further ado...

A healthy burger that could revolutionise the family barbecue has been produced by academics. The prototype patties have been made by Brazilian scientists in which some of the fat was replaced with linseed oil. The new ingredient contains a boost of Omega-3 acid, which is known to help keep the heart strong and stave off depression and arthritis.

Crucially, in tests, consumers couldn’t tell the difference between the taste, smell or texture of the two types of burger. Now the same science could be used to create healthy sausages, steaks and chops too.

Nadia El-Hadery, chief executive of food tech industry umbrella group YFood said: “I’d put money on big retailers already looking at these burgers or something similar. When you see the amount of investment being raised in the US for research into tweaking traditional recipes, you realise we’re perhaps only two or three years away from this food being available on supermarket shelves or at your local drive-by window. There’s already the appetite for this among consumers, particularly millennials who get the message that a diet based heavily on meat and animal fat is unhealthy.”

Researchers from Brazil’s Federal University of Santa Maria and Spain’s Meat Technology Centre of Galicia had a factory produce hundreds of burgers using beef and pork fat. However, half of them had had 50 per cent of the fat swapped for tiny microcapsules of slow-release linseed oil. After cooking, they were taste-tested by 100 burger fans aged 18 to 55. The linseed-bolstered products were moister, though just as chewy and not as fatty.

They also scored roughly the same as traditional burgers for colour, smell, flavour and texture. And in a double-whammy, even more Omega-3 would be released as the capsules’ coating breaks down in the stomach. The study – in the journal Meat Science – states: “Frequent consumption of burgers may increase the incidence of obesity, cardiovascular disease and some cancers…The results indicated that the replacement of pork back fat by linseed oil microparticles can be done without loss of…sensory quality. [It] can be considered an effective strategy to produce healthier burgers.”

Dietician Dr Sarah Schenker said: “People may be a little suspicious at first but I can see it taking off in time, particularly when it comes to things like family barbecues. Of course, we still can’t eat red meat every day and there’s no point having a healthy burger if it comes with a stack of chips and a soft drink. But I can see this potentially having a positive impact on the nation’s overall health if this food becomes widespread.”

A spokesman for the Asda supermarket chain said: “We’re always on the look-out for great new products for our customers to enjoy.”

Whether a burger with less fat and a dose of linseed oil is the answer to the world’s rapidly increasing obesity epidemic we’re not totally convinced on and questions of sustainability and ethical meat production remain unanswered by this latest invention. However, with Deliveroo revealing we’re still a nation of burger lovers in its recent survey of the most popular takeaways in the UK, innovations to improve this dish's nutritional value could be a welcome addition to restaurant menus and supermarket shelves.

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