Tasting the Future: the Impossible Burger
I found my way through the busy streets to the Founding Farmers restaurant in Washington D.C. It was a Tuesday, but the crowd and large line could convince you that it was the weekend. I was told that I would have to wait, unless I managed to find space at the bar. I found a crowded corner with enough space to squeeze in. It’s a Tuesday, do I really want to deal with this? I saw the menu and reminded myself why I was here:
It’s finally time to try the Impossible Burger!
A sticker on the sidewalk helped guide me to the right restaurant
Impossible Foods and the Impossible Burger
Impossible Foods was founded by former Stanford professor Pat Brown 2011. After learning how devastating and unsustainable the current livestock agriculture system is in producing meat, Brown formed his team to study all the properties of meat in order to make the perfect plant-based meat alternative: the Impossible Burger.
The Impossible Burger is a plant-based meat burger that is meant to be like meat in every way. From the taste and texture to even how it bleeds. The key protein that contributes to the bloody flavor and aroma of meat is heme, and Impossible Foods identified a protein in the roots of soybean plants that has the same properties as heme called soy leghemoglobin. Besides this (not-so) ‘secret ingredient’, the Impossible Burger also uses wheat and potato protein as well as coconut oil to mimic the taste of meat.
And here I was, finally able to try it myself.
Tasting the Future
After finding a seat, I was told that I could switch in the Impossible Burger patty into any burger on the menu. So I chose the classic cheeseburger (with fries, of course). It was recommended that my meat is cooked medium, as if it wasn’t a plant-based product. It was amusing to think that the chef was going to cook the plant-based burger as if it was like any other burger patty that was ordered as medium.
Not long after, my burger arrived with the signature Impossible Flag staking its claim on top of it. Besides the flag, the burger looked just like any other cheeseburger the restaurant would serve. Appetizing and inviting.
I tasted the burger. There was an authentic, meaty taste. The texture also felt like I was eating meat in a burger. Was this the magic of soy leghemoglobin at work? I cut the burger in half and took a look inside of it, and it appeared just how a normal meat burger would look like cut in half.
I nearly finished eating one of the halves when I noticed something. Having ordered the burger cooked as medium, I noticed that it wasn’t as juicy as I’d expect for a medium cheeseburger. Cutting the burger in half, there was no pink center that you would usually expect with a burger cooked medium.
I noticed that the burger was pretty crispy and a bit charred at the surface as well. Is this how the Impossible Burger normally cooks, and did that contribute to the dryness of the meat? Or was that just how it was cooked at this busy restaurant? Is it even fair to give the restaurant a hard time about that, seeing that the restaurant is expected to cook this plant-based burger patty just like any other burger that was ordered as medium?
While a bit dry, the burger was still delicious, and I happily devoured the rest of the burger. If I was served the Impossible Burger without knowing would I have noticed? Probably not. If I was hungry, I likely would’ve downed the burger. I would have noticed that the burger wasn’t cooked medium and that the surface of the patty was crispy and a bit charred. But that would be about it.
Is the Impossible Burger indistinguishable from a normal meat patty? Not just yet. The juiciness factor sticks out to me when expecting a burger, but the other ingredients that made the cheeseburger did compensate for that.
Yet, if that’s the only thing that I noticed, then props to Impossible Foods. They have managed to nearly mimic and replicate the flavor of a traditional meat burger using entirely plant-based.
As of January 2018, the Impossible Burger is being served in about 500 restaurants across the United States. It’s not hard to see why after trying it myself. Impossible Foods has created a product that cooks like meat, smells like meat, and tastes like meat. Entirely from plants.
While not entirely there, it’s a remarkable product when considering all the years of research that has gone into producing it. Impossible Foods is constantly improving its product and releasing the latest version when they believe they have created an even better product. They also plan to launch their first product in Asia this year.
When compared to the conventional meat burger, the Impossible Burger uses about 75% less water, 95% less land, and emits 87% less greenhouse gases. The Impossible Burger also does not use any antibiotics and contains no cholesterol.
While not cellular agriculture, the successful rise of plant-based meat alternatives is a positive sign that people will embrace alternatives to conventional animal products that provide a more sustainable and environmentally friendly option. In the end, both cellular agriculture and plant-based meats are working towards the same goal: a healthy and sustainable source of animal products.