The hamburger has become an iconic food in American culture. Beginning as a cheap and quick way to feed people on the go, the burger has evolved into a versatile, photogenic meal we can’t get enough of. From a ramen burger to a quinoa burger, the food assumes many shapes and forms. But there’s a new burger on the scene that’s here to provide a tasty yet sustainable alternative to everyone’s favorite beef patty.
The Impossible Burger was created by a team of scientists from Impossible Foods who are dedicated to studying and researching food in order to “transform the global food system by inventing better ways to make the foods we love, without the compromise.” The Impossible Burger is completely plant-based, but what distinguishes this burger from the rest of the veggie alternatives is an ingredient called heme.
Heme is a molecule found in all living things from cows to cauliflower. It’s what gives meat its vibrant red color, makes it sizzle when it hits heat, makes it bleed (or, appear to bleed) and even gives it that slight metallic-meat smell. Heme is what makes meat act like meat. In addition to this molecule, the burger is also made from plant-based ingredients including wheat, coconut and potato.
Beyond pulling off a convincing beef imitation, the Impossible Burger is also extremely sustainable. Livestock production takes a heavy toll on the environment and is responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to LEAD. The Livestock, Environment and Development Initiative (LEAD) is a project headquartered in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations that constructs and advocates for sustainable livestock production strategies.
Livestock production also exhausts Earth’s minimal natural resources. It clears out forests and grasslands, causes soil erosion, uses limited freshwater supplies, pollutes coastal areas and runoff tainted with fertilizer and animal waste wipes out coral reefs.
Another major concern is limited agricultural space. According to LEAD, “More than two-thirds of all agricultural land is devoted to growing feed for livestock, while only 8 percent is used to grow food for human consumption.”
The Western World consumes 176 pounds of meat per year, and if the whole world were to develop this lifestyle the world would need two-thirds more land space.
All this information is scary and ominous, but is also what has motivated the bright minds at Impossible Foods to create meat alternatives that actually taste good. By making these veggies taste remarkably like meats, Impossible Foods hopes to change the world by persuading carnivores to eat their products in place of the real deal, and in turn, reducing the overall demand for meat.
We know it’s tough to part with meat, but most of us eat too much of it anyway. Next burger night try a portobello burger instead, or go find an Impossible Burger. Who knows, you might just love it.