It looks like meat, smells like meat and even tastes like meat! And that is where the similarity stops, because it’s a veggie burger!
For those people who sometimes feel guilty about eating meat, this burger has been created to take away all those guilty feelings. It does come at a price, as it has taken researchers at Impossible Foods five years and over $75 million to create it! The end result is a plant based product which even bleeds like a rare burger.
The ingredients list is rather regular – water, textured wheat protein, coconut oil, natural flavors’ – and something called heme. Heme is a molecule found in animals and some plants and acts to give the meat its red texture and irony taste.
But instead of extracting heme from legumes like soybeans, which would have been expensive and time consuming, and unearthing the plants would release carbon into the atmosphere, the researchers decided to use yeast.
“Ultimately, we want it to be practical to produce enough of our product to match what’s currently consumed in the U.S. or the world. Well, that’s a lot of heme,” Patrick Brown, former Stanford biochemist responsible for Impossible Foods says.
To replicate fat, researchers mix flecks of coconut oil into ground “plant meat” made from textured wheat protein and potato protein. The potato protein provides a firm exterior when the meat is seared. And the coconut oil stays solid until it hits the frying pan, where it begins to melt, just like beef fat.
“The demand for meat is going through the roof, and the world is not going to be able to satisfy that using animals — there’s just not enough space, not enough water,” he added.
“If anyone still has the illusion that there’s anything natural about where their beef comes from, it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of research,” he says, “to realize that there’s almost nothing remotely natural about how it’s produced.”
Impossible Foods isn’t targeting vegetarians; it wants to woo carnivores. Brown thinks meat lovers would choose veggie patties more often if they had an option that really replicated the burger-eating experience.
“The customers that we care most about are people who love meat.”
But he says neither burger-substitute-maker should necessarily count on carnivore customers to drive sales. “I don’t see it as a beef-eater market. I see it as an opportunity for the vegetarian market,” says Landsman.
“I don’t think you’re going to get people to convert over” and give up meat completely, he says.
He adds, “As long as animal proteins are available at a reasonable price, people will not fully replace their meat with a plant-based alternative.”
“If people are going to be eating burgers in 50 years, they’re not going to be made from cows,” said Brown. “We’re saving the burger.”
The burger has more protein, less fat and fewer calories than a patty that’s 80 percent lean meat and 20 percent fat. And because it’s plant-based, this “meat” has no cholesterol.
Reviews of the burger are mixed, with some people saying that it tastes no different from any real meat burger. If you want one, you will need to head to New York as there is no suggestion of it appearing on any menus in Britain any time soon.