Will a bloody veggie burger get more omnivores to try going meatless?

Impossible Foods Burger
© Impossible Foods

Reproducing meat's "meatiness" with plant-based ingredients has been a five-year quest for Impossible Foods, and its 'bloody' veggie burger is now (sort of) available.

Some people transition from omnivore to vegetarian or part-time vegetarian pretty easily, perhaps because of animal welfare concerns or environmental issues or health considerations, but others are either incredibly resistant to the idea (for any number of reasons), or they try it but quickly revert to their previous diet because they claim to miss the taste or texture of meat. And although there are a variety of meat substitutes on the market, some of which are remarkably meat-like in texture (seitan, for example), or capable of being grilled and seasoned like meat (such as tempeh), many meat-lovers who might otherwise be tempted to lower their diet's carbon footprint find that these foods are still lacking that certain something.

However, Impossible Foods may have cracked the meat code with its forthcoming veggie burger, which is the result of five years of research into making sure everything about this plant-based food ("the sights, sounds, smells, textures, and most importantly flavors") meats meets the expectations of meat lovers. According to the company, while the product is made up of simple plant foods ("sanely good ingredients"), the so-called "magic ingredient" of The Impossible Burger is something called heme, which you won't find packaged up for sale in your local grocery store, but which is found abundantly in meat (as well as in plants).

Heme, which many of us may recognize as a component of our blood which carries oxygen (and which is responsible for the red coloration), turns out to be the secret sauce of making meaty meatless burgers, as it plays a distinct role in the flavor of meat, but can also be procured from plants. In essence, heme is plant blood that can help make a veggie burger 'bleed' - as well as taste like it's bloody. It might even seduce a dyed in the wool meat lover who wouldn't go meatless for any of the reasons that others might, such as the climate, their health, animal welfare.

According to a recent interview on The Ezra Klein Show, Impossible Foods founder and CEO Patrick Brown suggested that the company's goal isn't simply to make a meat substitute (as many plant-based foods manufacturers do), but to make a meatless meat that is literally better than meat:

"We had to make something that a meat lover will prefer to what they’re getting today from an animal. We have to clear a very high bar because we have to produce a product that — for a consumer who’s not gonna cut us any breaks — outperforms as a burger what we’re getting today from a cow. If you do that, they’ll switch." - Brown

It seems as if Impossible Foods has done the impossible with its bloody veggie burger, as a consumer taste test with 600 "burger eaters" in four cities ended up with people preferring the company's plant-based option "by two to one." And if you live in New York City or San Francisco, you can soon try it yourself, as it appears that the company is 'pencils down' on its creation, and ready to have it meat meet the world. As of July 27th, the Impossible Burger is available at David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi in NYC, and will be coming to a San Francisco location this fall. Find out more at Impossible Foods.

P.S. If you're a chef or restaurant owner interested in being among the first to serve this new vegetarian option, the company wants to hear from you.

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