Could Fake Meat Burgers Make Cows Obsolete?
The average American eats nearly 60 pounds of beef (27 kg) a year — roughly equal to a couple of hundred burgers.
But for how much longer will the beef burger remain king?
A new generation of burgers made with, “plant meat” is vying to topple the beef burger from its throne, transforming the beef industry and the way we eat in the process. One industry pioneer foresees a not-too-distant future where we get the bulk, if not all, of our protein from plants, not animals.
“Our mission is very simple,” says Dr. Pat Brown, a physician and former biochemist who founded Impossible Foods in 2011.
“It’s to completely replace animals as a food technology by 2035.”
Brown’s Impossible Foods, along with rival Beyond Meat, are two companies at the forefront of the plant meat revolution.
Their signature products, the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger, made with soy and pea protein respectively, are marketed as being more environmentally friendly and sustainable. Their mimicry of the beef burger includes making their patties “bleed” like beef burgers. Beyond uses beet juice to achieve that effect and Impossible uses the additive heme.
Impossible Foods says its products are available at more than 10,000 outlets, such as Burger King in the United States, and multiple locations in Asia. Brown is firmly committed to eliminating animal meat from our diets. His vision isn’t too far fetched. A recent report from consultants A.T. Kearney predicted that by 2040 most of our meat won’t come from slaughtered animals, with plant-based and lab-grown alternatives taking up the slack.
“People are not wedded to the idea that meat has to come from animals. They’re very wired (to) the idea that they got to have meat,” Brown says.
‘Same sensory experience’
The stock debuted on NASDAQ, for $25 per share. It’s now trading at more than $160 per share, a sign that the public has bought in to the concept of meat made out of plants.
This followed more than a decade of research and development by the company into burgers made from plants. The goal was to develop a product that would have the protein, nutrients, taste and mouthfeel of animal meat.
“I think of meat in terms of being amino acids, lipids, trace minerals, place vitamins, and predominantly water, just like you and me. All of those are available outside of the animal,” says Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat founder and CEO, and no relation to his counterpart at Impossible Foods.
“We’re using … thermodynamics with heating, cooling, and pressure to organize those proteins in the same structure to your sensory experience as they would present an animal muscle,” he adds.
“Then it becomes a question, do you have to have it from a cow or pig or are you comfortable with it coming from a plant?”
Beyond’s Brown says that he believes consumers will accept that meat can come from sources other than animals.