Plant-based meat alternatives make significant advancements
In recent years, the once humble veggie burger has seen significant inroads in winning over even carnivores through inventive iterations that, while nothing close to what’s served at Shake Shack, are delicious in their own right. Lately, however, a wave of new plant burgers is approximating actual meat in eerily realistic ways.
Impossible Burger has done what was once thought to be, well, impossible: the company’s lab-developed patty replicates the texture, taste, and scent of beef without harming a single animal. The team spent five years researching the complexity of beef burgers, ultimately honing in on heme, the molecule that makes meat taste like meat, as the basis of the patty’s flavor; while it is ubiquitous in animal flesh, it is also found in plant matter. Though plant heme protein composes less than 2% of the Impossible Burger—the rest is a mix of traditional veggie burger staples like wheat, potatoes, soy, coconut oil—it’s enough to make the patty “bleed” when bitten into. Even celebrated carnivore David Chang is on board: his Momofuku Nishi now serves it.
Grocery store shoppers won’t find Beyond Burger, a plant-based ground beef patty alternative that took seven years to develop and counts Bill Gates among its investors, next to typical veggie burger neighbors like tofu blocks and soy cheese slices. Rather, the “raw” patty is being sold alongside the real thing in the meat section of supermarkets in an effort to get people to eat less meat. (The product sold out in an hour at its Whole Foods debut in May.) Dense with protein—20 grams of it, in fact—Beyond Burger bears a shocking resemblance to real beef burgers, even “bleeding” thanks to the inclusion of beet juice.
Israeli startup SuperMeat is working to develop a sustainable, cruelty-free chicken product, taken from a harm-free chicken biopsy (i.e. “lab meat” as it’s become known). The goal of the scientists behind the product is to bring to market an eco-friendly, cruelty-free protein that would appeal to vegetarians and carnivores alike while also addressing world hunger. The company contends that that cultured meat would be cheaper than raising animals and also gentler on the environment since it would require fewer resources. Its Indiegogo campaign, which still has a month left, has already surpassed its $100,000 initial fundraising target.