Impossible Foods Hopes to Replace All Meat in the Human Diet Someday

©. Impossible Foods

It's an ambitious, though slightly unrealistic, goal for the inventors of the bleeding veggie burger.

The CEO of Impossible Foods, the maker of the famed bleeding veggie burger, made a bold statement in a recent interview with The Guardian. Pat Brown said he hopes his company will someday replace all meat in the human diet. When asked if he sees the veggie burger as something akin to soy or almond milks, plant-based milks that have captured an impressive 10 percent of the U.S. dairy market in recent years, Brown disagreed:

“We’re after 100 percent of the market, not a niche of people avoiding meat or being health conscious. To capture the whole market you have to deliver whatever it is that consumers value from that category of product. People have been making veggie burgers forever but not trying to make something that replicates the crave-able experience that meat lovers enjoy.”
Brown goes on to describe a future in which cows and chickens would be “kept around because they’re interesting animals,” not because they’re needed as food. Grasslands would be allowed to return to wilderness and provide displaced wild animals with a new home. And people would be healthier, he says, because there would be fewer safety issues with fecal-contaminated meat and

It’s an interesting and ambitious position to take. Having eaten the Impossible Burger when visiting New York City this past May, I can attest to the fact that it’s an impressive facsimile of the real thing, though still noticeably different.

I think, though, that Brown is underestimating people’s level of comfort with food processing. No matter how delicious the Impossible Burger may be, or how its production aligns with diners’ evolving ethical priorities, it still remains a hyper-processed product. As I wrote before:

“The burger is made from potato and wheat protein, bound with xanthan and konjac, a high-fiber vegan substitute for gelatin that hails from Japan. It is flavored with coconut oil, vitamins, amino acids, sugars, and [genetically-engineered] heme.”

This is not the kind of food that I would want eat on a regular basis – once in a while, yes, but hardly the makings of the natural whole-foods diet that is my aspiration. To satisfy protein needs, I’d be more inclined to eat beans and lentils than incorporate Impossible Foods’ (or their rival, Beyond Meats’) products into everyday recipes.

That Brown would even make such a statement, however, is indicative of a much-needed societal trend toward plant-based eating. It will be interesting to see where the company ends up and whether their new venture into retail (they’ve currently been selling exclusively through a handful of restaurants, though receiving lots of press) will take off.