eating green

Texas eatery to serve up more eco-friendly burgers

There's a burger spot in town where you can order a meal that does less damage to the environment. Photo via hopdoddy.com

Hearty Austin-based chain Hopdoddy Burger Bar has unveiled a new lineup of regenerative burgers that are supposed to be better for the planet and the consumer.

The term "regenerative burger" could cause a few head-scratches: Some may think of lab-grown or 3D-printed meat, while others think of plant-based alternatives but it’s neither. It is grass-fed meat, sourced a bit differently. "Regenerative farming" is a term used to describe farming and grazing practices that claim to restore and rebuild degraded soil, resulting in better-quality air and water.

Hopdoddy’s vice president of culinary Matt Schweitzer explained that it all began with with a sense of obligation to do better as a brand for the consumers and the ecosystem.

“We felt like we could really take a stand and look to move our entire supply chain in a regenerative fashion, so we could really be proud of the work we’ve done and we could hopefully leave the animals, the farmers, the ranchers, the native grasslands, and our planet a better place than before we started,” says Schweitzer.

The new menu items include the "Roosevelt Burger" with grass-fed regenerative bison; the "Nashville Hot Sandwich" with regenerative raised chicken; the "Regenerative Royale," which is a play on a classic double quarter-pounder with cheese; the "Mother Nature" with grass-fed regenerative beef; and the "Buffalo Bill" also uses regenerative bison, but appears not to be grass-fed.

The five burgers are available at all Hopdoddy locations nationwide. The beef and bison are sourced from Texas-based regenerative company Force of Nature, while the chicken is from Cooks Venture.

With this launch, Hopdoddy removes all plant-based meat substitutes from its menu, significantly reducing the options for vegans and vegetarians. The company felt the ingredients and ethos of the alternative meats — describing some such as Beyond Meats as "falsely advertised" regarding nutrition in a press release — no longer aligned with its values and mission. However, the house-made veggie patty remains on the signature "El Bandito" burger.

Schweitzer says the regenerative burgers have received positive feedback, as people are excited to know where their food comes from, how it gets to their table, and what type of impact it causes. Regarding the future of regenerative meat, he says there is no doubt it could become mainstream soon.

“I think the flavor profile, the eating experience, the story, the mission, the purpose, really speaks for itself," says Schweitzer. "So, I really think it’s a matter of time until 'regenerative' is talked about in the same way that 'organic,' or 'sustainable,' or those type of buzzwords are talked about."

To further show its commitment to regenerative agriculture, Hopdoddy is also one of the sponsors of Common Ground, a documentary about the pioneers of the regenerative movement, premiering October 4 in Austin. The "uplifting" film, according to a release, features well-known actors Laura Dern, Rosario Dawson, Jason Momoa, Woody Harrelson, Ian Somerhalder, and Donald Glover, emphasizing that this motley crew does share one thing in common: a strong belief in regenerative agriculture.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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A View From HETI

HEXASpec was founded by Rice Ph.D. candidates Tianshu Zhai and Chen-Yang Lin, who are a part of Lilie’s 2024 Innovation Fellows program. Photo courtesy of Rice

A group of Rice University student-founded companies shared $100,000 of cash prizes at an annual startup competition — and three of those winning companies are focused on sustainable solutions.

Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge, hosted by Rice earlier this month, named its winners for 2024. HEXASpec, a company that's created a new material to improve heat management for the semiconductor industry, won the top prize and $50,000 cash.

Founded by Rice Ph.D. candidates Tianshu Zhai and Chen-Yang Lin, who are a part of Lilie’s 2024 Innovation Fellows program, HEXASpec is improving efficiency and sustainability within the semiconductor industry, which usually consumes millions of gallons of water used to cool data centers. According to Rice's news release, HEXASpec's "next-generation chip packaging offer 20 times higher thermal conductivity and improved protection performance, cooling the chips faster and reducing the operational surface temperature."

A few other sustainability-focused startups won prizes, too. CoFlux Purification, a company that has a technology that breaks down PFAS using a novel absorbent for chemical-free water, won second place and $25,000, as well as the Audience Choice Award, which came with an additional $2,000.

Solidec, a company that's working on a platform to produce chemicals from captured carbon, and HEXASpec won Outstanding Achievement in Climate Solutions Prizes, which came with $1,000.

The NRLC, open to Rice students, is Lilie's hallmark event. Last year's winner was fashion tech startup, Goldie.

“We are the home of everything entrepreneurship, innovation and research commercialization for the entire Rice student, faculty and alumni communities,” Kyle Judah, executive director at Lilie, says in a news release. “We’re a place for you to immerse yourself in a problem you care about, to experiment, to try and fail and keep trying and trying and trying again amongst a community of fellow rebels, coloring outside the lines of convention."

This year, the competition started with 100 student venture teams before being whittled down to the final five at the championship. The program is supported by Lilie’s mentor team, Frank Liu and the Liu Family Foundation, Rice Business, Rice’s Office of Innovation, and other donors

“The heart and soul of what we’re doing to really take it to the next level with entrepreneurship here at Rice is this fantastic team,” Peter Rodriguez, dean of Rice Business, adds. “And they’re doing an outstanding job every year, reaching further, bringing in more students. My understanding is we had more than 100 teams submit applications. It’s an extraordinarily high number. It tells you a lot about what we have at Rice and what this team has been cooking and making happen here at Rice for a long, long time.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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