By Barbara Kessler
There’s a new veggie burger in town. But this one, unlike its bean-, nut- and tofu-based cousins, aims to mimic hamburger as closely as it can, blood and all.
Silicon Valley’s Impossible Foods unveiled its new bloody, but non-animal, burger to the Wall Street Journal yesterday. The WSJ reporter tasted the patty, served on a bun with vegan cheese, and declared that she half liked the chewy burger though not the icky vegan cheese (a different mountain to scale) and also it wasn’t as good as some of her favorite real burgers back in NYC, she candidly offered.
Nonetheless. This was a bite heard around the world, with the news screaming across the Internet like a bleating cow headed for slaughter.
Yeah, I had to say that.
Because this is potentially another huge step for humane-kind, which needs to get serious about getting off the meat agriculture that’s contaminating our landscapes and disrespecting our circulatory systems.
But the blood, you’re asking. How could there be blood? The “blood” is a concoction of juiced plant materials, spinach and some other things (no, they didn’t reveal the formula) that’s added to other, shall we say meatier?, plant ingredients to produce a burger that would appeal to a carnivore.
The WSJ piece describes the blood as a “deep-red liquid” that has the same distinct metallic taste as real blood and also is derived from the molecule found in hemoglobin “that makes blood red and steak taste like steak.”
It sounds like something to satisfy the hamburger-eating masses, and that is the goal, says biologist and physician Patrick O. Brown, the Stanford University professor and mastermind behind this latest stab at the CAFOs, agricultural waste and pollution.
With a healthy $75 million in venture capital funding (from Bill Gates, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing and others), Brown set up Impossible Foods to figure out how to make faux meat, cheese and eggs. The company employs several scientists, chemists and food experts working to replace “animal technology” with a more modern and humane food creation plan. The operation is three years along, though the burger announcement was the first public unveiling. There’s no word yet on when this burger might be available at retail. The one produced for the tasting cost $20, a price that Brown says will come down as equipment and efficiencies of scale are developed.
Impossible Foods is not alone in its efforts to replace animal foods with plant-based ones. Beyond Meat, of El Segundo, Calif., just debuted its faux chicken strips and beef crumbles, which use pea protein as a base.
Others in the space include San Francisco-based Hampton Creek Inc., focused on replacing eggs, and New York’s Modern Meadow Inc., which plans to make meat from stem cells.
That’s not to mention the many companies long in existence that make seitan, tofu burgers and wieners (Tofurky) and wheat-protein sausages and roasts (Field Roast).
And, of course, who could forget the $300 cultured “test tube” burger cooked and tasted in London last year? Google’s Sergey Brin is backing that venture, which posits that growing meat in labs is viable. Inarguably, it’s more humane.
“Livestock is an antiquated technology,” says Impossible Foods’ founder Brown. “The system that we use today to produce meat and cheese is completely unsustainable, it has terribly destructive environmental consequences.”