Big news: the juicy, meatless burgers made by Impossible Foods are now available in about 5,000 restaurants and in all 50 US states. What’s more, the company announced today that starting in 2019 you can pick up an Impossible Burger for yourself at your local grocery store. One year ago, there were only 50 restaurants selling the plant-based burger.
In other words, the Impossible Burger isn’t looking so, well… impossible.
For those who aren’t familiar with Impossible Foods, it’s a company worth keeping tabs on. It was founded by the company’s CEO Dr. Patrick O. Brown, and was first served at David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi restaurant in 2016. Brown’s mission was to create a plant-based burger that a meat-lover would drool over. And he succeeded. The burger sizzles, bleeds, and tastes like meat. The key ingredient: heme, a molecule found in blood, as well as in plants, giving the meat-substitute the iron-based flavor that it needs. It actually tastes like meat, meaning it might actually appeal to meat eaters.
In the past year, Impossible Foods has taken burgers to the fast food industry, with a mission to bring its plant-based meat to as many people as possible, and is serving up its Impossible Burgers in every single restaurant of the American fast food chain White Castle. This year the company has also ventured abroad, taking its burgers to Hong Kong this past spring, and over the summer they earned the title of the first ever kosher cheeseburger, as the Impossible Burger is now certified kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU). And now, the Gourmet pub Dog Haus Biergarten and happy-hour hotspot Hurricane Grill & Wings can be added to the list of chains serving the Impossible Burger, with more to come.
But Brown’s vision for Impossible Foods is so much grander than simply making a meat substitute. In the company’s Sustainability Report from 2017 they write:
“Americans consume about 10 billion pounds of ground beef per year. The average American eats three hamburgers every week— nearly 50 billion burgers per year and about half of this is consumed in restaurants. In order to supply this much meat, around three quarters of all agricultural land in the U.S. is devoted to cattle and the crops they eat. Impossible Burger uses vastly less land, water, and energy than a burger made from cows.”
In fact, the company provided some numbers to back that claim up:
One conventional beef burger:
20.5 – 23.5 gallons of H20 for drinking and crops
83 – 251 sq feet for growing and raising feed crop
2.3 – 7.4 kilograms of CO2 emissions
One Impossible Burger:
6.0 gallons of H20 for drinking and crops
4.5 sq feet for growing and raising feed crop
0.8 kilograms of CO2 emissions
That’s a pretty big difference, with a substantial positive impact per burger. And according to the company, “Americans have eaten more than 13 million Impossible Burgers since July 2016, when the product first debuted […]. Those 13 million burgers translate to the weight of beef from more than 6,500 cows, the resources saved of a land area bigger than 25 Central Parks, the single-day water use of more than two million Americans, and greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to driving the US from coast to coast 80,000 times.”
So, ‘Where can I get one?’ you’re probably thinking now. The Impossible Burger has made its way into restaurants, universities, and corporate cafeterias, as well as abroad to Hong Kong, and Macau. And soon, grocery stores.
White Castle offers the Impossible Slider on its menu for $1.99, making processed vegan food actually affordable to the masses. The burger was first available in New York, Chicago, and New Jersey, but is now on the menu in about 5,000 restaurants in all 50 states. With this kind of accessibility, Impossible Foods is working to make plant-based meat an easier option for the public. In fact, as we reported on CleanTechnica, Brown’s long-term vision is to eliminate all animal-based food products by 2035, and the company believes it’s on track.
Impossible Foods is not the only food lab looking to expand its reach and take on the meat industry. Cooking up meat in a lab is becoming more and more affordable, allowing startups to really dig into development. Beyond Meat, Just, Memphis Meats, and Future Meat Technologies are all startups that are successfully creating non-traditional foods and experimenting with growing meat in the lab. But of course, the US beef industry isn’t happy about it. The US Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) filed a petition to the USDA in February in an attempt to narrowly define ‘meat’ and ‘beef’ as animals that have been slaughtered. But meanwhile other factions of the meat industry do want meatless-meats to fall under the purview of the USDA, making it more difficult for them to get to the market. The debate rages on, but the central question at hand is: what’s best for the planet?