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Impossible Burger Impossible Foods

At Web Summit, geneticist and Founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, Pat Brown, said he is confident of replacing the use of animals as a food technology by as soon as 2035. 

During the Web Summit conference, Pat Brown was interviewed by Laura Reiley, Business of Food Reporter at the Washington Post. “Our mission is to completely replace the use of animals as a food technology by 2035. We’re dead serious about it and we believe it’s doable,” he said. 

“I was confident that we would succeed when I launched this company, and now I’m completely confident. It’s game over for the incumbent industry –they just don’t know it yet,” Brown said. 

According to Impossible Foods, every time you eat Impossible Burger instead of beef from a cow you are using 96 percent less land, 87 percent less water, 89 percent less carbon emissions (CO2).

Brown acknowledged that environmental concerns are not enough to make people change their diets. For this reason, his company decided to take a different approach. 

“The whole reason we took the approach we did is that we’re depending on making a product that consumers who don’t care about climate change will choose –because it’s delicious, and for its nutritional value, affordability, convenience. And sustainability is just a bonus,” he said. For Brown, sustainability remains the main motivation as he highlighted the importance of changing our diets. 

“By far, the biggest factor is climate change, and the collapse of global biodiversity is the use of animals as a food technology. Nothing comes close. We have to get rid of it. It’s much more important than replacing fossil fuels in terms of benefits for the world,” Brown said.

Food technology by 2035: The science behind the Impossible Burger

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Eating is a sensory experience. Source: Impossible Foods 

The future of food is all about science and biochemistry. The science behind the Impossible Burger is rather interesting, indeed. Eating is mostly a sensory experience that happens in the brain. To make the Impossible Burger, scientists had to ponder on the question of how to make the brain send signals that something is yummy and then associate it with eating meat, even though the food in question has not come from an animal but from plants. 

Making a vegetarian burger that people can eat and have the same exact experience as eating a beef burger –including sound, sight, smell, and taste– is the ultimate goal of Impossible Foods. 

The Impossible Burger is not a veggie burger. Scientists made the Impossible Burger in the lab using neuroscience. To do this, they worked on answering a crucial question first: What makes meat, meat?

 What makes meat, meat? What is heme?

In order to answer this question, scientists at Impossible Foods broke down a beef patty, molecule by molecule. They found out that there is one essential molecule that creates that burger flavor: Heme. 

Heme is an essential molecule which contains iron and is found in living beings. Heme is naturally found in fairly high concentrations in the blood of humans and other animals. It is also found in much lower concentrations in many plants. Impossible Foods says that heme is what makes meat taste like meat. Heme also gives the pink color to meat, and it is what makes blood red. 

Heme looks and tastes like blood. Yikes! Doesn’t this make you wonder if perhaps humans who say they would not stop eating animal meat could actually be vampires? 

“In cows, that’s the catalyst, the driver, for all the aroma compounds that make meat. It’s also responsible for the color. [Heme] is bright red in color, and upon cooking, it turns brown,” says Celeste Holz-Schietinger, a flavor scientist and VP of Product Innovation at Impossible Foods. 

So, what are the ingredients in an Impossible Burger? 

impossible burger, future of food
The future of food include these ingredients used in the Impossible Burger/Source: Impossible Foods

The future of food is meat-free, sustainable, free from animal suffering. 

We already talked about heme. The good news is that heme, an essential molecule as we discussed before, can be extracted from the roots of the soybean plants. The soy leghemoglobin is what makes the heme used by Impossible Foods; and heme is the most important ingredient, what makes the Impossible Burger taste like a beef burger. 

Other ingredients include:

Textured wheat protein, which is used for the fleshy texture of beef. Potato proteins are used for the crispy exterior when seared. Flakes of coconut oil that melt on a grill, then sizzle like fat and give the white appearance of fat in ground beef. Mixing all together, it looks and feels like raw beef. This is the starting point of a process when the brain cannot tell the difference between a beef burger and one that is not beef. 

With the Impossible Burger, meat eaters have an alternative that not only delivers the same sensory experience they have with a beef burger but also they can choose a sustainable and healthier food option that benefits them, other animals, and the planet.

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