Sometimes you just need a burger. A big, juicy patty, naked, or with cheese, or all the fixings. One bite and all your worries seem to vanish. But if that patty isn't made of meat is it still a burger? And will meat lovers want to eat it? Impossible Foods founder and CEO Patrick O. Brown is betting on it.
Chances are you've heard of the Impossible Burger. It's been in development since 2011 and made its debut last July to much media attention at chef David Chang's restaurant Momofuku Nishi. It's a plant-based burger that feels, smells, cooks, and tastes similar to ground beef. It even bleeds. The real test of the appeal of this plant-based burger starts now when a wider group of diners will have access to it at Bareburger's flagship location in Manhattan and as Impossible Foods scales up production with the burgers becoming available at Bareburger locations around the country.
Why the World Needs It
"Our mission is to make delicious, nutritious, and affordable food for everyone -- in a way that is sustainable and scalable," Brown said. "Part of that mission is making the food we make as widely available as fast as we can, so we can reduce the impact of global food production on the environment. Bareburger is a great partner for us because we're both growing fast. We can learn from each other and from our customers."
Once thought of as the stuff hippies ate, later as what vegetarians and vegans had to eat, today non-meat burgers are more mainstream as increasing numbers of people make a conscious decision to eat less meat for health and/or environmental reasons. The James Beard Foundation predicted we'll see less beef and more produce on our plates, in part because of a growing interest in sustainability.
While there is disagreement over just how much commercial agriculture, especially livestock agriculture contributes to global warming there is no doubt it does contribute. That combined with the fact that by 2050 the world's population will surpass 9 billion, and that we will need to double food production to feed everyone has made eating less meat attractive to consumers and finding ways to create more plant-based meals the start-up darling of the ag-tech industry Impossible Foods says their burger uses 75 percent less water, generates 87 percent fewer greenhouse gases, and requires 95 percent less land than conventional ground beef from cows.
What Is It Made From?
The Impossible Burger is made from proteins (extracted from wheat and potatoes,which give it its feel and texture), flavors (vitamins, amino acids, sugars, and heme, which itself is made from plants but is what imparts the meaty color and taste; together these vegan flavor ingredients taste like a rich beef broth), culinary binders (konjac and xanthan found in most natural food stores), and fats (coconut oil and soy, which give it a juicy texture). There are no hormones, antibiotics, cholesterol, or artificial flavors. And because it is so similar to a traditional beef burger it can be cooked much the same way; anywhere from rare to well done. At Bareburger it will be cooked with chain's signature seasoning, topped with Colby cheese, onions, dill pickles, and their sauce, then served on a brioche bun for $13.95.
Later this month, Impossible Foods will open a large-scale manufacturing plant in Oakland, California, which will allow them to supply more restaurants (Currently diners can also find the burger at New York restaurants PUBLIC, The Daily, Saxon + Parole; in San Francisco at Jardinière and Cockscomb; and in Los Angeles's at Crossroads Kitchen) and eventually at retail locations. The company is also developing additional plant-based meat and dairy products.
What does it taste like?
I tried the plant-based burger at Bareburger and found it almost scary how similar it is a beef burger in terms of both look and texture. It tasted great, not at all like the traditional veggie burgers on the market -- which I happen to like -- it's a nice substitute to a meat burger and given the option, I would probably order it over a beef burger. Many hardcore carnivores will likely think it's similar but doesn't taste exactly like a beef burger.
Now all you have to do is decide if a burger without meat is still a burger.