Over the past few years, since the launch of the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger in 2016, vegan “beef” burgers have redefined how consumers think of vegan food. These “bleeding” burgers follow the same compositional layout, structurally and ingredients-wise, as animal-based meats, meaning that they contain the same protein, fats, and minerals but derived from plants.
The Impossible Burger is made up of “wheat and potato proteins, coconut oil and heme.” Heme is the iron-containing molecule found in hemoglobin that aids in the transport of oxygen. Impossible Foods, the company that developed and sells the Impossible Burger, determined that heme is what gives beef its distinctive flavor. Their heme is derived from legume hemoglobin or leghemoglobin, for short. Their leghemoglobin was originally harvested from soy roots but is now derived from a yeast engineered with soy leghemoglobin’s gene. This genetic modification, coupled with the fact that the burger contains gluten and has high sodium content, raises some questions and concerns with consumers. Impossible Foods’ safety testing of heme on rats, to comply with FDA food safety regulation, has also raised questions and concerns of the company’s mission and ideals.
The Beyond Burger, from Beyond Meat, is made from peas, faba beans, and soy which then go through stages of heating, cooling, and pressure change to align proteins into structures that mimic animal meats. Beets are used to achieve the classic red beef color. The Beyond Burger is sold in both supermarkets (interestingly, it is sold in the meat section) and restaurants, unlike the Impossible Burger which is only sold in restaurants currently (with plans to begin selling in US grocery stores in 2019).
Explore the Twitter Moment below to delve into the opinions and news surrounding recent developments in the vegan meat world, namely Beyond Meat’s announcement that they will go public and the launch of the Impossible Burger 2.0 in restaurants, the new Impossible Burger recipe.
This new sector of the vegan industry that hopes to bring the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle to a massive and, often, reluctant audience could be a fascinating new jumping off point for you in your vegan journey. However, I will warn that the meteoric rise of these companies holds important implications for the future of the vegan movement and the direction it will ultimately head. In the end, it is up to those of us who have committed to a vegan lifestyle to direct the movement to a wider audience and to retain the basic health benefits of the lifestyle. While the animal rights aspect of veganism is vital, disguising vegan food as fatty, salty, and ultimately unhealthy products is not the magic fix. We cannot simply work to convince people to eliminate animal food products from their lives but to also eliminate the unhealthy aspects of their diet and redefine what they put on their plate. As we all know, being a “fat” vegan is an extremely easy mistake to make, with the ease of access to Oreos, Lays, french fries, and the like, but we must keep in mind the responsibility that we have to use veganism as an opportunity to clean up our plate and our bodies. Minimizing environmental and societal impacts with a vegan lifestyle is a wonderful aspect of the mission but we must also minimize the detrimental impacts food can have on our body. So while these burgers may convince and convert people in the short term, the long term solution must be to build a healthier society powered by the clean-burning fuel of a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle.
Call for comments:
What is your opinion on vegan “beef” burgers and the vegan meat industry more generally?