Doing the Impossible: How One Company is Changing The Meatless Burger Forever


The Little Vegetarian Burger that Could – All For The Love of Meat.

Holy cow. Are you privy to how much beef production is taking a toll on the planet? Here’s the short answer: more than all cars, and all modes of transportation for that matter. Combined.

According to livestock researchers, animal agriculture uses 30% of all land, over 25% of all freshwater on Earth, and creates as much greenhouse gas emissions as all of the world’s cars, trucks, trains, ships, and airplanes combined,’ explains Impossible Foods on their website.

In fact raising cattle requires ‘about 10 times as many natural resources as any other livestock animal,’ sites The Ringer, in their recent article about the Impossible Burger, Impossible Foods’ first creation.

And if you happen to spend your spare time perusing USDA statistics, you’ll notice that many US states are making most of their agricultural money from cattle. It’s lucrative. People like to eat burgers.

So you can imagine the difficult task that faces companies trying to offer an alternative to the meaty burger patties so many of us know and love.

Why Meatless?

Healthy eaters don’t necessarily agree on whether meat is a good choice or not. There’s the saturated fat argument, then the fact that it’s a rich source of iron. There are lovers of the organic, grass fed burger and there are those that opt for plant-based instead.  But it wasn’t health per se (not human health, anyway) that led to the creation of one of the most buzzed about new meat alternative. 

The Impossible Burger

Because we use 0% cows, the Impossible Burger uses a fraction of the Earth’s natural resources. Compared to cows, the Impossible Burger uses 95% less land, 74% less water, and creates 87% less greenhouse gas emissions. And it’s 100% free of hormones, antibiotics, and artificial ingredients.

Creating a meaty tasting, vegan burger is apparently so difficult that it took a Stanford chemist to crack the case. It started when Patrick Brown went on sabbatical to decide how he would spend the rest of his career, a career that had thus far included inventing the DNA microarray and cofounding the Public Library of Science. Hard to follow that up…

But during his sabbatical, Patrick decided that the single biggest stress on the environment right now is animal farming. And the statistics are there. Farming cows at the rate we’re doing it is depleting our resources, degrading our land, and overall threatening the health of the environment.

He organized a conference to bring awareness to the problem but the impact wasn’t quite there — probably a fun and informative weekend that ended with people going back to doing what they normally do. Brown realized that if he really wanted to take a bite out of the beef industry, he would need to create a competing product.

The Science of Meat

Luckily, Brown had some friends who knew their way around a microscope. They started collaborating with the goal of discerning what it is about meat — beef especially — that makes it taste the way it does. What gives it its signature color, smell, texture? What makes it go from pink to brown during cooking?

'For the Love of Meat' – Narrated by Founder Pat Brown

Want to learn a little more about us? Check-out a film we made narrated by our Founder & CEO Pat Brown titled 'For the Love of Meat'.

Posted by Impossible Foods on Monday, October 17, 2016

The answer, to some of those questions anyway, was heme, a building block of living things that is found in a particularly high concentration in beef. They added this ingredient to an otherwise unsurprising vegetarian ingredient list (potatoes, coconut oil, wheat…) and the result is a burger patty that can satisfy even the most carnivorous craving.

Like a burger made from cow, the patty starts out pink and browns as it’s cooked, with a distinctly meat-like taste that other vegetarian burger patties have thus far not been able to pinpoint. It’s plant based, it’s meaty…

And Now You Want It

But it’s not available in grocery stores yet. Right now, the only way to enjoy an Impossible Burger is to get it from one of these restaurants. That list is growing quickly, so if you don’t see any restaurants in your city, keep watching. The company has chosen to grow in this way first, working with chefs to get the patties into more and more restaurants, ensuring a gourmet Impossible Burger experience. But soon they may be on the shelves at grocery stores.

And they’re not stopping at beef. Impossible Foods is currently working on cheese, yogurt, pork and other products that are typically made from animals. With each product they introduce, they hope to truly wow your tastebuds and contribute to a food system that is way less reliant on animal farming.

Read more about what’s happening over at Impossible Foods

Hope Freije

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