The burger that will change the world (and blow your mind in the process)
July 29, 201610:23pm
A Quest for an All-American Burger… Without Meat
WE SHOULD have known the revolution would start with a burger.
In an effort to fight the growing impact of our diets on the environment, a company called ‘Impossible Foods’ has set out to do the impossible: create a meat-free burger so delicious, so juicy, so ■■■■■■, that even the most ardent carnivore would choose it over the beef alternative.
In one of the most potentially game-changing pieces of food news in decades, it looks like they may have succeeded. After years of development, this burger-shaped harbinger of a new age finally hit the menu of David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi in New York this week.
Called, appropriately, the “Impossible Burger”, it’s taken five years to produce a burger patty that looks, smells, tastes, sounds (that delicious sizzle…), cooks and bleeds like meat. Seriously — watch the video.
It’s hard to believe there’s no meat in this burger
This level of perfection is essential because, as the company’s founder Patrick Brown explains, “we had to make something that a meat lover will prefer to what they’re getting today from an animal.”
“The only customer that we care about … is someone who loves meat, is not looking for an alternative, and is not going to compromise on the pleasure of eating meat.”
In short, as the company’s website states, “we don’t make veggie burgers”.
This kind of sensibility shift is increasingly critical, according to many environmental scientists, because of the global impacts of our eating habits.
A study this year by the Oxford Martin School predicted that emissions caused by food production and other agriculture would, within three decades, consume approximately half of the world’s “carbon budget”.
By simply reducing our meat consumption to the levels recommended by health guidelines, we could reduce this impact by up to a third.
It is these consistently dire warnings that has seen Impossible Foods raise more than $US180 million for its work to date, its high profile backers including Bill Gates and Google.
To create the Impossible Burger, the team began by breaking down the compounds found in beef. Once these were isolated, they could rebuild by finding the same compounds in plants and figuring out how to put them together.
In every way the ‘Impossible’ burgers behave like regular beef patties. Picture: Impossible Foods
In every way the ‘Impossible’ burgers behave like regular beef patties.
Their key discovery was a molecule called “heme”. Heme is what gives meat its unique umami flavour, its iron and even the red colour and consistency of its blood. The same molecule occurs in plants, and it’s the key to making the Impossible Burger taste like meat, contracting on the grill like meat and even bleeding a little when cooked rare.
The results have also been impressive from an environmental standpoint. An Impossible Burger requires only five per cent of the land and a quarter of the water that a beef burger does, and produces only an eighth of the greenhouse gases.
As the company puts it: “replacing one quarter-pound beef patty with an Impossible Burger saves as much water as a 10-minute shower, takes 18 driving miles of greenhouse gas emissions off the road, and frees up 75 square feet of farmland”.
With renowned chef, food writer and anti-vegan David Chang’s support behind the finished product (he says he was “blown away” by his first taste), the endeavour to make it delicious can be called an unequivocal success too.
Once the burger is widely available, Impossible Foods has their sights set further: “our research will enable us to produce virtually any meat — beef, pork, chicken, fish — as well as cheeses, yoghurt, milk, and cream — all from plants.”
Bring. It. On.