HOW A PLANT-BASED BURGER MIGHT JUST HELP SAVE THE PLANET
The Impossible Burger (impossiblefoods.com) has popped up very slowly at just a few select restaurants across the nation, so when it made its Los Angeles debut at Tal Ronnen’s famed Crossroads Kitchen (crossroadskitchen.com) in West Hollywood, we marched out with the team to give it a try. What arrived at the table, topped with all the appropriate accoutrements and even adorned with a cute little flag, sure smelled, looked, tasted, and even felt like a real beef burger - except it's made entirely of plants! The patty was nicely seared on the outside, pink and juicy on the inside, and even “bled” when squeezed. This begged the question: why would vegans and vegetarians want a plant-based burger that bleeds like animal meat?
In the moment, it didn’t even occur to us that perhaps this burger wasn’t made with vegans and vegetarians in mind. Perhaps the Silicon Valley chefs and food scientists who created the Impossible Burger made it with meat-lovers in mind – and maybe, just maybe, something like this could be part of the solution to the urgent issue of climate change and creating a more sustainable food system.
We already know that the beef industry leaves a huge environmental footprint (it sure takes a lot of land, water, and food for cows to turn into the beef that ends up on dinner plates) and with a growing population comes an even greater demand on our resources that would seemingly never end. So if a plant-based burger could look and feel like the real thing, could it really turn even some of the most diehard American carnivores into part-time vegetarians? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see, but these technological advances in plant-based food look awfully promising.
Impossible Foods already has more than just a burger in mind - they are working on making other types of meat and dairy - like chicken, pork, fish, and yogurt - entirely out of plants by attempting to recreate the flavors, textures, aromas, and even the nutrition of their animal-based inspirations that the world is so attached to. The team at Impossible Foods researches every aspect of why meat is the way it is, hoping to achieve almost exactly the same product - all the way down to how it looks, feels, and smells while raw - just made entirely from plants.
WHAT'S IN A BURGER
So, what exactly goes into an Impossible Burger? It seems to be made predominantly of wheat (sorry, gluten-free folks!), coconut oil, and potatoes. According to the company's website, "the plant-based Impossible Burger delivers bioavailable protein and iron comparable to conventional beef. It has no cholesterol, hormones, or antibiotics." When making a comparison to the average American beef burger, one could argue that the words "no cholesterol" are enough of a reason to give this burger a shot!
Patrick O. Brown, M.D., Ph.D., and founder of Impossible Foods, changed the course of his career in order to address the issue of climate change - in particular, to find a way to make the global food system more sustainable.
According to the company, the Impossible Burger uses 25% of the water, 5% of the land, and emits 13% of the greenhouse gases emitted to make a beef burger from cows. California is certainly a state that could benefit from impressive figures like this, but these are reductions that could really potentially change the world.
The bottom line, of course, is whether or not those many diehard American carnivores can actually wrap their heads around the idea of a plant-based burger substitute.
How many years of convincing might it take? ◆