There’s something about a hamburger that can take over your mind in an instant. Upon a whiff of sizzling meat, the brain has a new primary objective: Get meat.
What is it that makes our minds go nuts for burgers? Maybe it’s primal wiring that goes back tens of thousands of years, when we first started cooking meat over fire.
But personally , now that I’m in my 30 s, the slightly more evolved part of my mind often asks the question, “Frankie, are you sure you want to eat that? ”
There are three reasons I’ve begun to refrain( sometimes) from indulging in one of my favorite things.
The first is simple: I don’t always feel great after I eat a beef burger. My state of being becomes sluggish and bloated, which is admittedly often a fair trade for the gratification of a hot, bloody, meaty flavor bomb.
The second reason is health. Meat is ubiquitous in the everyday American diet, with meat intake expected to hit an all-time high in 2018. The average American eats more than 220 pounds of meat per year, polluting our arteries as well as the environmental issues. In other words, it’s unsustainable.
( It should be noted, however, that giving up meat doesn’t always translate into a “healthier” lifestyle. While 6 percent of the U.S. population now identifies as vegan — versus 1 percent in 2014 — that doesn’t seem to be making any meaningful dent in the upward trend line of obesity .)
The third reason I occasionally abstain from eating meat is for the welfare of animals. It’s easy to forget that 100 years ago, if you wanted meat, you’d have to go kill the animal yourself. In today’s world, the guilt has been completely removed.
So how are we supposed to satisfy a burger craving with all this guilt on our shoulders? Maybe ignorance is bliss, but ideally there’s a better answer.
Enter’ fake meat’
Impossible’s product — it’s known for looking and tasting just like real meat, blood and all — is exclusively served in restaurants. It gained some popularity after being served at David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi two years ago, which was when my mind was blown by the convincing aroma and “blood” dripping down my limb after the first bite. It’s now served in over 600 places across 20 countries.
Beyond Meat also attempts to imitation real beef, though perhaps slightly less convincingly. It got its start in grocery stores like Whole Foods, selling its product in the meat lawsuit alongside the real thing, which is something the meat industry isn’t too happy about. The brand has now also moved into restaurants.
Together, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have raised virtually $500 million to help spread the word and scale their operations.
But seriously. What’s this stuff made of?
Imagine a vegan burger patty that sizzles, reeks and bleeds like the real thing, and that’s what you’ve got. It’s nothing like the grainy, seedy, bean-y imposters that veggie burgers of days past ought to have. But Impossible and Beyond Burger are both built solely from plants.
Beyond Burgers are made primarily from pea protein and includes beet juice extract for color.
The secret ingredient in the Impossible Burger, the one I find more convincing of the two, is a compound called “heme, ” which is what carries oxygen in the blood of living things. It’s what induces meat savor like meat, and the team at Impossible has figured out how to produce heme by using plants and a secret fermenting process.
An Impossible Burger representative told HuffPost in an email that their engineered heme is “identical to the essential heme humen have been consuming for hundreds of thousands of years in meat. And while it delivers all the craveable depth of beef, it uses far fewer resources.”
And that is what’s really exciting.
What’s the environmental impact of fake meat?
These patties are much better for us and the planet. Pound for pound, Impossible Burger says it uses 75 percentage less water, produces 87 percent fewer greenhouse gases and involves one-twentieth the land compared with beef from kine.
Even if you’re not a mathematician, napkin calculations will tell you that if Impossible can get the economies of scale working in its favor, it could theoretically have a product that costs one-tenth that of beef. If these fake meats truly take off, fast-food chains will have no choice but to serve products like this down the line.
Beyond Meat’s website touts that its mission also includes “positively impacting climate change, conserving natural resources and respecting animal welfare.”
So how do I get my hands on one of these things?
Many independently owned restaurant across the country, even Saxon& Parole, a Michelin-starred New York eatery, serve Impossible Burgers on their menu.
But the biggest restaurant group selling this product by far is White Castle, America’s oldest burger chain. You can pick up “The Impossible Slider” at 140 of its locatings.