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Eating the Impossible
Impossible Foods intends to reduce the negative environmental effects of the meat industry with their new meat substitute. But how does it compare to real meat?
November 15, 2019
Two million years ago, humans began eating meat. We carved weapons from hunks of wood and shards of rock to hunt. We wove nets of grass and tree fibers to trap fish. We learned to harness fire to cook our kill. And even after all this time, meat has not left our lives. Pre-cut strips of bacon sizzle on quaint stovetops in our modern world, turkey cooks in our ovens in honey-glazed convenience. But now, it is time for a new evolution in the relation between man and meat—and it may seem impossible.
Founded in 2011, Impossible Foods is a company devoted to creating plant-based substitutes for meat. Their mission is to “Save meat. And Earth.”
Saving meat may sound like a strange goal for a meat-substitute company, but Impossible Foods does not want to save the primitive process of killing animals, but rather the experiences that center around meat. They believe the magic of neighborhood barbecues and Thanksgiving dinner can exist without dishing out dead animals. If the same texture and flavor can be created with plants, why would we stay stuck in our stone-age habits of eating meat?
Killing animals harms more than the animals eaten. Livestock farming wipes out large areas of land, cuasing deforestation and diminishing biodiversity, not ot mention greenhouse gas emissions and waste. Impossible Foods aims to give consumers all the benefits of meat without the damage to the environment. According to the Impossible Foods website, a single Impossible Burger requires 96% less land, 87% less water and 89% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a burger made from beef.
So what makes the Impossible Burger taste like meat? Many meat-eaters fear a long list of strange chemicals and menacing GMOs, but the recipe is much simpler than that. The burger’s ingredients include potato and soy for protein and coconut and sunflower oils for fat. What gives the burger its flavor is heme. Heme is a basic molecule in every living thing and is what makes meat taste the way it does. Impossible Foods derives the molecule from genetically engineered yeast.
Though genetically modified plants are used to make the burger, there is no evidence they are in any way harmful. And before you turn your nose at such an “unnatural product,” remember that cows are pumped full of medicines and supplements before they sizzle on your grill.
Thanks to a boom in the Impossible Burger’s popularity, the burger is becoming more and more accessible. The burger is available all across the US, as well as in Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore. A wide variety of restaurants, from local diners to fast-food chains, were quick to add this vegetarian option to their menu. Impossible’s “meat” is also now available in many grocery stores.
Many fast food chains have scrambled to get in on the Impossible. After performing a review process with a wide variety of consumers, Red Robin added the burger to the menu. “It was important for us to offer a new meatless option that appeals to traditional burger eaters,” said Noah Stanley-Huff, Red Robin’s Guest Relations Specialist. The addition of the Impossible Burger is not only to satisfy vegetarians, but to encourage others to eat less meat.
Another chain restaurant that picked up the Impossible Burger was Burger King. The company began selling the burger in St. Louis, and the test-market was so successful the burger is now offered at locations all across the nation.
A devoted meat-eater may claim meat is essential for getting enough protein. A single Impossible Whopper is 630 calories with 25 g protein, closely matching up to the regular 660 cal 28 g protein of the beef Whopper. And with the Impossible Whopper’s flame-grilled patty, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onion, and ketchup, you can hardly spot the difference.
White Castle also introduced an Impossible slider. In a taste test of White Castle’s sliders, I tried both the Impossible slider and the veggie slider. Though it closely matched the beef slider in price, the veggie slider more closely reflected what the carnivorous fear: thin, green, with a taste and consistency similar to hash browns, not sizing up too well against the classic beef slider. The Impossible slider, on the other hand, had the same taste and a very similar consistency to beef.
Meat-eaters may think that meat substitutes are all vomit-colored mush, but this isn’t the case. The Impossible Burger has the same grilled exterior of any beef burger, the same pink inside, same texture, and same flavor.
Many restaurants have elevated the Impossible Burger with the addition of fresh and unique ingredients. Layla, located on Manchester Avenue, was praised for its Unicorn burger in Sauce magazine. The burger is served on a pretzel bun, topped with lettuce, jalepeños, pico de gallo, and a cashew red pepper sauce. Frida’s Impossible Burger, which includes healthy ingredients like organic arugula, grilled onion, white cheddar, tomato and a buffalo mustard, was also featured.
Burgers are not the only food that can be made with Impossible Foods’ product. Qdoba provides a spiced version of the meat substitute as an option for bowls, tacos, and burritos. Impossible Foods’ website also lists a wide variety of recipes, including larb, skewers, gyros, meatballs, and lasagna. Anything you can do with regular beef, you can do with Impossible’s product. Plus, you don’t have to worry about getting E. coli when working with uncooked Impossible meat.
Whether you want to eat out at a nice restaurant, prepare a meal at home, or grab a burger on the go, the Impossible Burger is an excellent option. The burger has all the flavor, texture, appearance and protein of a beef burger, but is much more environmentally friendly. Why let our two-million-year-old methods control you? The Impossible Burger is an innovation beyond the savage practice of killing animals, beyond deforestation and pollution. Saving our planet may seem out of reach, too large a task. How could any one person make a difference? Well, next time you want to eat a burger, just remember: The Impossible awaits.