According to statistica.com, U.S. residents and visitors ate a staggering 27.3 billion pounds of beef in 2019. I’ve discussed the deleterious environment impact of this culinary obsession in a post entitled The Trouble with Beef. Yet much as we might love Mother Earth, we’re rather entrenched in our culinary habits. Meat and potatoes – and especially burgers and fries – are as American as Mom and apple pie.
Plant-based burger alternatives have been around for decades. They typically involve some combination of beans, grains, vegetables (e.g., mushrooms, kale), nuts, seeds, and/or tofu. I’ve tried a bunch of these recipes with varying degrees of success. None have come close to replacing a good-old-fashioned beef burger that sizzles on the outdoor grill… until now.
In 2011, Stanford emeritus professor Pat Brown founded a company called Impossible Foods with a mission “to save meat and earth.” A biochemist and pediatrician by training, Dr. Brown was alarmed at the collapse in global biodiversity as a function of our excessive use of animals for food. He recognized that folks wouldn’t readily give up what they love to eat. So, he decided to create a plant-based product that tasted, smelled, and acted meaty.
After years of research and development, the company’s signature product – the Impossible Burger – was launched in July 2016. Version 2.0 was released in January 2019. Impossible Burgers are available in select grocers and fast food restaurants. We found them in our local WalMart and decided to give them a try. They look like hamburgers and are quite tasty. Were we to serve them at the next backyard barbecue, I doubt we’d get complaints.
From a nutritional standpoint, the Impossible Burger compares favorably with lean ground beef. A 4-ounce patty provides 240 calories, 19 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbohydrate, and 14 grams of fat. They’re roughly a third more expensive than a conventional burger. But if it turns out that these products make the planet more habitable for the generations to follow, I think it’s worth the price.