Vancouver’s Hamburger Problem

Vancouver, Canada, which is the perfection of the best city you have ever been in, has at least one big problem besides its high taxes: its regulations on hamburgers. Actually it all traces to a larger regulation in British Columbia generally. I’ve never visited when this regulation did not vex me personally and become the topic of ongoing conversation.

It’s all about the temperature to which you are required to cook hamburger meat. It all must be well done, all in the interest of saving you and me and everyone from some dangerous disease that comes with underdone hamburgers, or so the authorities say.

It’s the kind of regulation that creates the fear. All over the United States and the world, people order hamburgers medium and even rare. But not in Vancouver. It must be cooked to death, black as tar and dry as a bone. It’s been true since 1974 and nothing is going to change.

It’s perfectly preposterous but there is no movement to put an end to hamburger puritanism. I can imagine that any political party that would attempt to change the regulation would be branded as pro-disease, willing to risk the lives of multitudes in the name of laissez faire.

So the regulations will probably last forever. As a result, hamburgers in Vancouver are pretty darn weird. Cooks see the need to add moisture to the burgers, so they come with massive amounts of additives.

Burgers are covered with piles of cheeses that are dripped deeply into the meat. Buns are slathered with mayonnaise mixtures of various sorts, all kinds of special sauces. They are piled high with things like bacon, greasy potatoes, super-wet lettuce and tomatoes, and creamy breakfast foods like buttered oatmeal. Anything to add back in what is taken out.

Now, I’m no dietician, but I have some sense that these strategies for adding goop to the burger can’t be as good for you as keeping in the plain old beef fat. Surely doing this adds massive calories, and truly it takes away the enjoyment. The hamburger part, in the end, still tastes dry and boring. All credit goes to the creative chefs here for making good out of a bad situation, but, in the end, it’s all pointless.

Now, to be sure, there is apparently something of a gray market for pink burgers. Every so often you will see an ad for a restaurant that cooks its hamburgers “to order,” which is a hint and nudge that you might be able to get the cook to give you something other than a lump of coal slathered with sauce between two buns. But advertising like this is very risky. You are risking a visit from the health department plus huge fines.

I’ve heard tell of other places that will serve burgers medium well, but they know better than to advertise. The proprietors have to vet their customers very carefully in case there is a surreptitious sting operation under way. If someone comes in overly dressed and with affected casualness, there is a high risk it is a meat inspector. In that case, the cook burns the hell out of the burger just to make the point.

Then of course you can make your own at home, since, so far, Canada’s food police has not managed to install surveillance cameras in every kitchen. This sort of breaking bad is very popular in Vancouver’s private party circuit. These homemade eat-easys defy the government in ways that no inspector can quite control.

But despite these hints of defiance, what’s most disturbing is the extent to which residents of British Columbia have come to terms with their oppression, Canada’s own Stockholm Syndrome. Most just think that this is the way it should be. Many have even internalized the fake fear of pink, believing that anything less than a charbroiled brick on a bun represents E-Coli danger.

What’s strange is how this wild health fear affects only burgers. Otherwise, people in Vancouver are woofing down raw oysters, eating sushi with thin slices of raw meat, taking wild risks with the most dangerous food on the planet, namely the sea mussel.

Besides the high taxes, the plywood patty is the only real downside to visiting and living in Vancouver. It’s otherwise a perfect place that is a feast for the eyes, with gorgeous architecture and a stunning view of the harbor. Vancouver’s burger problem is a reminder that it is in part thanks to stupid government regulations that the eschaton cannot finally be immanentized.

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Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker is Founder and President of the Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Liberty or Lockdown, and thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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11 comments

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  • Absolute tragedy. What a horrific waste of meat. Jeffrey, if you’re ever in Baltimore, drop me a line. I’ll make you a proper burger. All of our beef comes from a local farm where the cows are 100% grass-fed and insanely delicious. However, burgers are not made to order. Rare or medium rare is all I’ll cook. Anything else would be uncivilized.

  • Ugh. My mom used to eat steak tartare. I’m not yet that extreme, but MR is good. Restaurants in N. NV will often accommodate that request.
    The trend of slapping a fried egg on everything is beyond my understanding. . .

  • I only eat M/MR if the meat is local and hasn’t been frozen because the temperature change really does cause a bacterial hazard, but MW should be the max temp a hamburger ever reaches. Anything beyond that is a coalburger, and even MW is pushing it.

  • I’m making my own at home tonight. And I’m going to cook them however I want! Regulations be damned! Ha!

  • I know of two restaurants in Vancouver serving steak tartar, I wonder if I could order lightly cooked steak tartar, with a side order of a bun, relish mustard, etc.

  • lots of alcohol is totally safe, of course. no doubt vancouver has given booze the free pass in its nighttime establishments. and it makes the burger taste better, I bet.

  • Come to Patagonia and eat medium-rare stakes (grass fed beef) and forget Vancouver hamburgers! Meanwhile you can go fly-fishing!

  • For the sake of clarity, there is a guideline in Canada that meat should be cooked at 71 centigrade. This is not a law. Many restaurants follow this practice in fear of lawsuits but according to everything I’ve read it’s not particularly difficult to get a hamburger cooked to your taste, particularly at better restaurants that grind their own beef.

  • Statism more or less says, anything the government does is good! Opposing the government is bad!

    But those who are willing to look beyond that soon discover another truth: everything the government does is bad. Opposing the government is good.

    So all you really need to do is look at any regulation or action the government takes and imagine that somewhere along the way, it is achieving the opposite of its intended purpose.

  • I really love sea mussel, didn’t know it was dangerous to eat.

    I must be a lucky guy as I eat at least two dozens of them every week and I have never had any problem with them. Always cooked never raw, anyway.

    I will go on eating them and seafood also.

    In Spain all fish (this does not include seafood or mussels) served in restaurant must have been deep frozen for at least 24 hours that’s a regulation against anisakis. I don’t think it affects the fish flavor but maybe someone dissents.

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