Investors betting big on ‘meatless’ meat
The arrival of so-called ‘meatless’ meat on the worldwide culinary scene has been prophesied for a long time. It represents something of a holy grail for those who are determined to reduce mankind’s consumption of animal products to something approaching sustainable levels.
At present the production of meat for consumption takes a massive toll on the environment. Every aspect of the process from the intensive rearing of animals to the monoculture farming of the food needed to keep the animals alive is damaging. That is without considering the horrendous physical and psychological trauma which we inflict on animals so that we can enjoy cheap meat whenever we want it.
For those reasons – and many others – the idea of an affordable and synthetic meat substitute has been tempting people for many years.
The company making the biggest waves in this area is Impossible Foods, a California based biotech company which has become famous for creating a plant-based burger that ‘bleeds’ when you bite into it.
Things like bean burgers have traditionally been create to offer a meat free alternative for vegetarians or vegans, but the goal for Impossible Foods is to remove meat from the menu entirely. If a plant-based alternative is available which is indistinguishable from real meat is available then committed meat-eaters have no reason to order a meat-based burger and we can start to ameliorate the toll that meat production takes on the environment and animals.
The Impossible Foods burger is made from wheat, coconut oil and potatoes and includes soy leghemoglobin – the ingredient which makes it ‘bleed’. The burger has a meaty taste but uses 75% less water and 95% less land than a beef burger, as well as generating 87% fewer greenhouse gasses during production.
The whole thing works because they have carefully identified the bits of meat which make it tasty and have identified them in plants. It is ingenious and it is no surprise that big name investors like Bill Gates are enthusiastically on board.
In further good news, there are only a few more issues to sort out before this burger can enter the mass market. The first issue is the cost of it. The Impossible Foods burger currently costs about twice as much as a beef burger, but it is likely that the cost will plummet once production is ramped up and the economy of scale is brought into the equation.
The second issue is that the burger must still pass some final Food and Drug Administration checks before being certified as completely safe. The soy leghemoglobin which makes the burgers ‘bleed’ still needs to show evidence that it is safe for people with various allergens. It is worth noting at this point that Impossible Foods is completely confident that it will pass and this is only a matter of gathering enough information to satisfy the authorities.
There seems to be no downside to switching over to plant-based burgers and mass market consumption will surely happen over the next decade.