There is a new burger on the scene that smells and tastes exactly like a beef patty, except it is made from plants. Biochemist Patrick Brown worked with his research team at Northern California-based Impossible Foods to create the Impossible Burger. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the global meat production in 2017 is expected to increase by 1 percent. Brown, the founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, states that “the demand for meat is going through the roof and the world is not going to be able to satisfy that using animals – there is just not enough space, not enough water.” Hence, the company has launched a burger that is healthier, less resource intensive and has a lower production cost than red meat.
The production of the burger requires only 5 percent of the land required for meat from the cow, uses only one-quarter of the water and produces only 12.5 percent of greenhouse gases. The Impossible Burger is made from coconut oil, wheat, potatoes and a special ingredient – legume hemoglobin – that makes the burger smell and taste like red meat. The ingredient is a basic building block of life on Earth that is found in both animals and plant matter. Although it is abundant in meat, it can also be harvested from plants. The burger is not just a product of carrots and peas smashed together like the veggie-burgers of old; it is a result of high-tech research. Brown’s team analyzed meat at a molecular level to determine the ingredients that make a burger cook, smell and taste the way it does. The burger delivers iron, and bioavailable protein comparable to conventional beef and an 85-gram serving size contains 13 grams of fat and 220 calories.
Impossible Foods has successfully raised over $180 million from investors including UBS, Bill Gates and Google Ventures. It has become a part of a group of food companies such as Hampton Creek, Juicero, and Soylent that are aiming to revolutionize the way consumers eat.
Beyond Meat is another company that aims to entice meat eaters by making a plant-based ground beef alternative. The company is already selling in Whole Foods and several other stores. The market for such products has been expanding at an unprecedented rate. The sale of meat substitutes in the United States has increased 18 percent from 2012 to 2017. However, Impossible Foods can succeed only if consumers choose an Impossible Burger over a conventional burger at the time of purchase. Mr. Brown acknowledges that many consumers would not go vegetarian for the sake of protecting the environment. He explains that beef is only the beginning and his company wants to replace all animals, in addition to dairy products and fish. The food scientists at Brown’s company can successfully create fish, pork, chicken, and yogurt entirely from plants.
The Impossible Burger is currently served at only a handful of high-end restaurants, and there are plans to further expand distribution this year. The burger costs the same as ground organic beef. The company is continuing to improve the formula and intends to make the burger available for consumers to cook at home.