Since 2011, the company Impossible Foods has been steadily growing and placing its substitute meat products in the market. However, 2019 was a revolutionary year for those in the vegetarian industry, as companies like Burger King and Dunkin' became mainstream for their plant based alternatives. Following 2020, alternative meat sales were up 60% showing a promising future for Impossible meat and other companies. 

Nevertheless, let's not forget the great backlash these substitute meats have received from within the food industry. From too processed to too expensive, the product has been criticized by companies like Chipotle and Whole Foods. With this, I want to take a closer look at all that matters: nutrition, processing, and environmental footprint, and then ask ourselves; is this really the future of meat?

The Concept 

Jade Leslie

The idea behind the making of Impossible Burgers and those that followed was to make a vegetarian alternative that looked, tasted and even smelled like real meat. To achieve this, producers relied on science and biochemistry to mimic the experience of eating a burger. 

However, in states like Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, bills have been passed to prevent these products to label themselves as fake "meat". This has presented even greater challenges for the product as labeling is key for targeting the non-vegetarian part of the population. 

How They Do It

Sofia Acevedo

Now, the real question that haunts those who have tried the product is: how do they make it taste so good? The very simple answer is "heme". 

Heme is a naturally occurring molecule that's very rich in iron and abundantly found in animal tissue. It is also "what makes meat taste like meat." Impossible foods produces heme in yeast, basically genetically engineering the yeast to produce heme at a fast pace

This gave them the possibility to produce a plant based product that also appealed to the regular consumers. But, they were met with great backlash from the public because of the high-processing and the use of GMO's. 

How Much Is Too Much Processing?

lettuce, french fries, bread, meat, cheese
Jennifer Cao

In the science world, we have come to understand the great importance and help of genetically modified foods, but the grave marketing against GMOs is still present and has planted seeds of concern in a lot of consumers in the US. Additionally, dietitians have spoken out against the product for it having too many unknown ingredients and not enough whole foods. 

These two conversations have given the impossible burger very bad rep and made a lot of possible consumers stay away. The truth is the word processed really means that a food product has been modified to preserve it, to enhance its flavor, to add nutrients, or to make plant proteins taste like a hamburger. Technically we could argue iodized salt is highly processed, and yet we don't see anyone lashing out about it. And yes, a lot of processed foods are unhealthy and should be avoided. But using the word "processed" as a scare-away tactic without clarifying why it's bad is not a good practice. So far, nutrition studies have deemed them as healthy as a regular burger, not better not worse. So using the phrase "highly processed" doesn't mean it's deathly or ultra unhealthy, it's a matter of personal preferences and priorities. 

Can We Consider It "Healthier"?

beer, water, masonjar, girl, Drinking, Health, hydration, smile, Healthy
Julia Gilman

Let me start by saying that at no point has Impossible Meat been marketed as a healthier alternative to regular meat. For some, it being a plant based product automatically means it is healthier or better. However, that is not the case when it comes to these substitute meat products. 

On average, they have around the same nutrition profile as regular 10% fat beef. With around 240 calories per 4oz and 19 grams of protein, they don't differ much from regular burgers. If anything, these products have gotten a bad rep for their high levels of saturated fat. Dietitians from Penn State raised concerns on the use of coconut oil, which has similar impacts on blood cholesterol as animal fats. 

Nutrition wise, we should not consider these Impossible and Beyond burgers to be a healthier alternative nutrition, and we should make sure we read the nutrition label and make informed decisions before introducing the product in our diets. 


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Shelby Cohron

Yes, Impossible Meat might not win the nutrition contest but it sure does win the environmentally friendly one. Impossible foods reported that every time you eat Impossible Burger instead of beef from a cow, you are using 96 percent less land, 87 percent less water, 89 percent less carbon emissions (CO2).

Let's consider why this matters: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported that livestock accounts for 14.5 percent of annual worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Cattle (raised for beef and milk) alone produce 65 percent of livestock emissions. The truth is that the best way for us to reduce our environmental food print is to try and avoid meat products as much as possible. 

Is This Then, The Future Of Meat?

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Jocelyn Hsu

Pat Brown, the CEO of Impossible Foods, stated that he is confident the company will fulfill its mission to replace all animal products by 2035. Honestly, I don't know how achievable that is, but I do know that the market for plant-based alternatives is growing at a fast pace and everyday more loyal carnivores try the products and are amazed.

These kinds of innovations have the power to transform markets and even societies. That, plus the growing concern for our environment and the fatal effects of cattle, give the world enough reasons to consider: how much do we really need meat?