If you could save the world by eating a burger, would you?
Two companies, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, are on a mission to redefine veggie burgers and eliminate all of the downsides of animal farming on our planet. With over five years of research and product testing, they've finally figured out how to make a plant-based burger look, feel, and taste just like real meat.
Organic Authority says plant-based burgers are becoming the hottest trend in the tech industry. That might sound weird, but there's a lot of technology involved in identifying plants, formulating the product, and mass-producing the burgers, to name just a few.
Tech wizards Bill Gates and Twitter cofounder Biz Stone have invested millions in plant-based food research already, with the former directly connected to both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. They believe that the success of these sustainably-produced burgers will decrease the demand for meat and provide a more viable food source to a greater percentage of the rapidly increasing population. It's the same reason Google tried acquiring Impossible Foods last year.
Eventually, there will not be enough real meat to feed all of us meat-eaters out there. That, of course, will cause meat prices to rise. So if we all jump on the fake-meat-that-tastes-like-real-meat train right now and popularize the movement, it will balance things out on both sides of the plate in the long run.
Beyond Meat's hottest item right now is its Beyond Burger, a raw patty made primarily from pea protein that "looks, cooks, and tastes like a fresh beef burger"—it can even appear to bleed thanks to the beet juice that gives it its red hue. There's no GMOs, no soy, and no gluten, and it's vegan, which makes this a win-win for practically everyone.
Beyond Burgers will eventually sit right alongside the real beef patties in the supermarket, and it's already there at a Whole Foods in Boulder, Colorado where Leanna Garfield of Tech Insider got to check it out. While it didn't taste quite like beef to her, the texture almost fooled her—and it was even pink in the middle.
Inside, bits of veggies mimicked the muscles and flesh of a cow. Overall, it was tasty and juicy, unlike most veggie burgers which can often taste closer to cardboard than beef.
Beyond Meat is beginning to release the Beyond Burger into the meat section of more stores throughout the United States, but there's no hard timeline just yet. You can follow them on Twitter to find out when their burger will finally be available in a store near you.
Patrick Brown, biochemist, founder, and CEO of Impossible Foods, investigated what exactly makes meat taste like meat, and that ended up being heme, which Brown suspected all along since it's responsible for the distinct look and flavor of red meat.
Heme is an iron-containing molecule in blood that carries oxygen. It's heme that makes your blood red and makes meat look pink and taste slightly metallic.
But heme doesn't only appear in meat—it can be extracted from legume plants like peas, beans, and soybeans. These plants contain leghemoglobin, which is the plant version of hemoglobin that's found in the red blood cells of animals. In order to scale up quickly, Impossible Foods transferred the gene that encodes the heme protein into yeast, which means that unlike Beyond Meat's products, Impossible Foods' burgers are not gluten-free. They also aren't soy-free, but they do not contain nuts.
A concentrated dose of heme is the magical ingredient used to make Impossible Food's veggie burgers taste identical to red meat patties. But what about the smell? Making up for the inclusion of gluten, Impossible Foods has created meat-substitution products that actually smell like their real meat counterparts. In order to get the smell right, they use a sort of "Smell-O-Vision" machine to identify smells from real meat, then figure out how to mimic it.
Impossible Foods is just beginning to release their burger to the public. As of now, it can be found on the menu at Momofuku Nishi in NYC. Additionally, the company is getting ready to release their burger this fall in San Francisco, CA; Join their mailing list to get information on when that will happen.
Animal farming is taking a huge toll on our natural resources. According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it takes 100 times more water to produce 1 kg of meat protein than it does to produce 1 kg of grain protein. As the earth's population grows, demand for meat increases and the amount of water we use continues to rise.
Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are highly focused on finding a way to reduce and, eventually, eliminate all of the downsides of animal farming on our planet. Converting meat-eaters to plant-based proteins can positively affect people's health, climate change, global resources, and animal welfare.
So keep an eye out for these plant-based burgers. They're on their way to a meat section near you.