The Impossible Burger: The new age of meat alternatives

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     Eating a hamburger isn’t as simple as it sounds. How do we know what a burger actually is? If it looks, smells, sounds and tastes like a burger, isn’t it a burger? The main difference between a beef patty and a vegetable patty usually is in the eyes of the beholder. Scientists at Impossible Foods have broken a burger down molecule by molecule to create a safe and tasty beef alternative. At the same time, obesity is the second leading cause of death in the United States, creating a growing need for dietary change.

     The current obese population rate of the United States is around 36 percent. Our diet consists of the highest amounts of meat intake in the world. Conversely, more meat being consumed means more land being needed to raise cattle. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization estimated that livestock is responsible for about 14 percent of all man-made greenhouse gasses. Besides health and conservational reasons, there is a reason we don’t all change to a vegetarian diet: stigma. There is a preconceived notion by the public that plant-based meats can’t taste or look as good as their animal counterparts.

     Impossible burgers aim to begin changing that stigma. The main part of what makes a burger so appetizing is its appeal to the human senses. YouTube food critic, Daym Drops, describes the perfect burger as, “One you can feel before you even see it. It makes your mouth water and it makes you want to savor every bite. This should all happen before you take a bite.”

     When first looking at a plant-based burger, it is easily recognizable as not meat. With so many plant-based products on the market, there can be an overlap of less than savory substitutes and ones that truly stand out. The Impossible Burger aims to change and define that stereotype. There is one thing that makes the Impossible Burger stand out from the rest, one molecule called heme.

     It is made to replicate the look and taste of blood. Which gives beef the best flavor. It creates the red tint and aroma of beef. Part of the fun of a burger is its smell and stature when it’s on a grill. The heme helps to replicate the flavor and look of a fresh grilled hamburger. The science behind the burger comes in its recipe.

     Heme is just the core ingredient that scientists use to help trick your brain into thinking what you see, smell, feel and the taste is beef. Richard Brown, a neuroscientist at Impossible Foods studied how the brain reacts when eating a hamburger. “A hamburger will send all sorts of information to our sensory organs. Through our ears, nose, eyes, and tongue. It’s only when those senses send information and the brain becomes integrated, do we know we are eating a hamburger.”

     The Impossible Burger recreates that same sensory experience. Proof that the Impossible Burger works, restaurant giant, Burger King, has already begun field testing “The Impossible Whopper.” In a viral video posted on YouTube, they switch customer’s Whopper orders with new Impossible Whoppers. They did not inform the customers of the switched patties until after they finished their meal. One customer said, “I have eaten at least a whopper a week for the past 20 years…That’s impossible, it tasted just like a regular Whopper.” They only charge $1 more for the Impossible Whopper than the traditional Whopper. Sales continuing to hold strong within the St. Louis test market, Burger King plans to expand the option to other areas. Proving that customers will pay the little bit more for a healthier option.

     The burger has found success not only locally, but internationally. Lthena Lye, Head Chef at Park Bench Deli in Singapore said, “What’s really unique about Impossible patties is that it’s made from plants, but it reacts exactly like meat made from cows would. The only difference is that it is sustainable, and it doesn’t harm the planet. I am not the only one who believes in Impossible Foods. Temasek Holdings, out of Singapore, Google Ventures and Bill Gates have all invested in the company within the past two years. Reported by Bloomberg, the company has raised a total of $450 million to help expand its reach to a broader audience.”

     While in Tifton, there are no local places that sell Impossible Burgers. Jessie’s Restaurant and Catering in Valdosta is the only place that sells the Impossible Burger in South Georgia. While it would be worth a trip with the family to go and try the burger, Impossible has partnerships with marketplaces such as Whole Foods, Publix and Kroger. They plan on selling the meat alternative commercially in these stores and many others starting later this year.

     Impossible Foods is changing the game when it comes to meat. Beef consumption and production have proven to have negative effects on our health. The Impossible Burger is scientifically proven to create every sensation that a burger does. Time and time again the Impossible brand meat has shown to be just like a real burger.

     Beef has become such a central part of the American way of life. Getting past the stigma is half the battle of making healthier options a mainstream success. With restaurants such as Burger King, the meat substitute has the ability to expand into many different regions of the country. Using plant extracted heme as a core ingredient, the company is able to create a recipe creating a meat experience in a leaner and tasty option. Their current support financially will help launch their brand into homes across the globe.

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