America loves its burgers |

America loves its burgers

Greg Risling

No matter how many calories it packs or the sheer size of its flamebroiled face, hamburgers are still dripping with popularity among Americans.

Ranking right up there with potato chips and its trusty sidekick, the french fry, as the most consumed food item in the United States, the burger tempts almost everyone’s tummy.

The burger is the food king.

And if you’re still asking, “Where’s the beef?” the answer can be found in over 5 billion stomachs every year.

They are sloppy, greasy and loaded with mounds of saturated fat so why can’t people cut hamburgers out of their diet?

“It’s quick, easy and tastes good,” said Julie Abner, manager of Izzy’s Burger Spa on Lake Tahoe Boulevard. “It’s part of American culture like baseball and apple pie.”

Picking up a hamburger is about common as driving a car. Businesses cater to the nation’s beef cakes with a burger joint in any populated area. Even in Tahoe, there are a couple national chains like Burger King and McDonald’s. Smaller, independent grills are scorching the larger competition with more tasty and unusual toppings. Customers can fill their buns with pineapple, blue cheese and spinach. Nothing is left from the imaginative creations of a classic burger.

Wholesalers’ products make a killing in the meat market. The threat of a bacterial disease couldn’t slow down the demand for ground beef. According to Buck Barkley, president of Barkley Meats, the key to selling a quality product is a simple equation.

“You need to have a good, lean beef mixed with appropriate trimmings,” he said. Barkley added that although seafood sales are up, burgers can’t be beat. “I can’t venture a guess why it’s so popular but I don’t think it will ever subside.”

Those who once swore against eating red meat are also being lured to burger shacks. More and more businesses are offering vegetarian meals and it’s not two buns with a tomato and lettuce. A study completed by the Baltimore-based Vegetarian Resource Group shows that there are 50 veggie burgers sold at Maryland grocery and natural food stores. Taco Bell also has a vegetarian burrito sans the lard. With speciality restaurants popping up all over the place, it’s no wonder that the meatless items are moving in on its former rival.

“The number of vegetarians has really risen in the past few years,” said Charles Stahler, VRG co-director, who estimates that 7 percent of Americans are vegetarians. “People are given alternatives these days that are low in fat.”

But resistance to a well-done, juicy burger with the works is futile for most. As long as there are a multitude of choices, consumers will continue to build up their cholesterol levels.

“People still like their burger medium rare,” said Abner. “Some like the cheap prices, others just want a tasty burger. Either way, our society will always want a good burger.”

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