Impossible Foods Heme “Plant Blood” Burger
Last year, the internet blew up when it learned about a burger made by Impossible Foods. That burger looked, smelled, and cooked like a real burger – but it contained absolutely no meat.
Now, we know the secret behind the Impossible Foods burger: it contains a form of “plant blood” called Heme.
What’s the Story with Impossible Foods?
Impossible Foods made headlines in 2015 when Google offered to buy the startup for between $200 and $300 million. The startup refused to sell, and Impossible Foods continues to exist today – thanks to nearly $200 million in venture capital funding.
After that story broke, people started trying the Impossible Foods burger and wrote glowing reviews. Reviewers praised the beef-like texture, tender center, mouthwatering smell, and that unmistakable sizzle when you put it on the grill.
Impossible Foods originally didn’t tell us what was in the burger. They essentially claimed that they broke down burger meat into its separate molecular components and then looked for those same molecular components in plants. They mashed everything together and formed a burger.
Now, however, Impossible Foods is revealing what’s really in its burger: plant blood.
What Exactly is Heme Plant Blood?
Impossible Foods makes its burgers out of a molecule called Heme. Some people are describing heme as “plant blood”.
This is the secret ingredient that makes the Impossible Foods burger so meaty and delicious.
So what exactly is heme? Well, every plant and animal on the planet has a molecule called heme in its bloodstream. Heme carries oxygen through the bloodstream. In plants, heme carries oxygen through the same mechanisms that produce energy.
Heme also turns your blood red. It’s the stuff that turns meat pink and gives a good burger that metallic flavor and delicious aroma.
Impossible Foods has found a way to take heme and make it into an edible meat product. They’re the first food manufacturer to use heme in their plant-based meat.
How Does Impossible Foods Put Plant-based Heme Into a Burger?
Impossible Foods takes heme and then injects the molecule with yeast, which turns it into a “temporary heme factory”, explains an article on TechInsider.io.
NPR expanded on the manufacturing process, stating that the process was far more cost-effective and sustainable than extracting heme from plants like soybeans. This process also allows the company to produce heme in massive quantities.
The end result is a plant-based vegetable burger that has the same sizzle and texture as a regular burger.
Can You Really Tell the Difference?
Impossible Foods claims that their burger has been extensively tested by meat lovers and few can tell the difference between the vegetable burger and the burger made from cow meat.
Apparently, “several thousand people” have tasted the burger and “few” can distinguish between the Impossible Foods burger and a conventional burger.
As the company explains, “The cow is not going to get any better at making a burger, but we will.”
The company expects its product to help the world become more sustainable. The demand for meat continues to rise, and there’s just not enough space or water on our planet to sustain widespread livestock production.
Clearly, investors agree: the company has raised $182 million in seed funding thus far.
They’re not the only company making “realistic” veggie burgers, however. Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat recently released its Beyond Burger, which is a pea protein burger that sizzles like real meat and bleeds beet juice. The burgers have quickly sold out at Whole Foods location. That project is backed by Bill Gates, among others.
What’s the Story Behind the Impossible Burger?
The Impossible Foods burger was created by former Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown and his research team at the company.
Brown claims that even before he started the company, he had “a very strong suspicion” that heme was the magical ingredient that gave beef its unique flavor. Brown has always believed that many meat products – from an animal’s fat tissue to muscle cells – can be replicated using plant compounds.
It’s true: heme is highly concentrated in red meat. It’s also found in plants. Brown could have extracted heme from sources like soybeans (which contain high levels of heme in their roots). However, this process was seen to be too expensive and time-consuming compared to their ultimate solution, which involved using yeast to grow heme. They actually took the soybean gene that encodes the heme protein and then transferred it to the yeast.
Today, at the Impossible Foods labs, you can see huge vats of frothy red liquid, each of which holds enough heme to make about 20,000 quarter pound Impossible Burgers.
Heme isn’t the only ingredient in the Impossible Burger. Researchers replicated fat by mixing in flecks of coconut oil into ground “plant meat” created from a mix of textured wheat protein and potato protein.
Ultimately, this leads to a burger that has higher protein, less fat, and fewer calories than an average burger. It also has no cholesterol – something that’s a problem on conventional meat burgers.
Ultimately, Impossible Foods isn’t creating a veggie burger for vegetarians. It’s creating a vegetable burger for carnivores who love eating meat. Stay tuned to learn when the Impossible Burger is going to be released near you.
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