The following article was written by Heinen’s partner, Liz Luby of 365Barrington.com. Images were provided by our partners at Impossible™ Foods.
What if the simple act of biting into a juicy, delicious burger could help you help save the planet? It may sound outrageous, but California-based startup Impossible Foods has made it, well, possible!
It all started when Pat Brown, founder of Impossible Foods, gave up his dream job of over 20 years as a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. During a 2009 sabbatical, Pat reflected on how he could use his training and experience to make the largest positive impact on the world. In the process, he realized that there might be a way to make delicious, nutritious, sustainable, and affordable meat and dairy products, from plants – that would be better for the environment and for consumers.
With a BA, MD & PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Chicago, Dr. Brown’s Windy City connections are strong. He also completed his residency in pediatrics at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital. He went on to research and develop technology to monitor and analyze genes, improving outcomes for patients with cancer, HIV and other retroviruses. He authored and published countless medical studies based on his lifetime of work.
In 2011, Pat brought together a team of top scientists to recreate the entire sensory experience of meat, dairy and fish using plants. They studied how each product tastes, cooks, sizzles and smells, and searched for plant ingredients that provided the same unique experience. Their goal? To reduce humanity’s impact on the planet by making the foods people love in a more sustainable way.
“Our team approached the challenge of creating better meat with many of the same tools and techniques that biomedical scientists use to understand how our bodies work and to discover treatments for previously incurable diseases,” Pat says. “Start with the hard fundamental research required to understand the basic principles and molecular mechanisms responsible for the flavors, aromas, textures and juiciness that make meat delicious and craveable; then, discover scalable plant sources of the specific proteins and other nutrients required to reproduce the magic of meat.”
One of Impossible Foods’ key early discoveries was that heme, an iron-containing molecule that occurs naturally in all living things, is the “magic ingredient” that gives meat its juicy, satisfying, craveable taste. They then found a way to extract it from the root nodules of soy plants, and manufacture it sustainably using fermentation.
In 2016, the team debuted their first product, Impossible™ Burger. It’s made with soy and potato protein for texture, heme for that familiar and meaty flavor, coconut and sunflower oils for the fat and sizzle and a culinary binder commonly found in ice cream, sauces and jams. With 0mg of cholesterol, 14g total fat per serving and 8g saturated fat per serving compared to conventional 80/20 ground beef, plus zero animal hormones or antibiotics, the Impossible Burger is delicious, and made from plants for meat lovers.
Since then, they’ve also developed Impossible™ Sausage Made from Plants. Impossible Sausage is tender, savory and pre-seasoned for easy cooking. Impossible Sausage (Savory) is fully seasoned with an herbaceous and peppery bite, capturing all the best tastes associated with breakfast sausage and ready to pair with the classic morning omelette or breakfast scramble. Impossible Sausage (Spicy) has a bold kick, reflecting notes of chili and cayenne for those looking to incorporate a bit of heat into their recipes. Impossible Sausage has 7g of protein per serving, 4g saturated fat per serving, 0mg cholesterol and no animal hormones or antibiotics, and it’s now available in all Heinen’s stores!
The Impossible Foods team is focused on converting the world’s meat lovers to a new way of seeing food choices. “When people try Impossible™ products for the first time, they can’t believe that what they’re eating isn’t made from an animal. It provides the delicious flavor, texture and experience of beef from cows or sausage from pigs. It just happens to come from plants.”
Impossible Burger uses 87% less water, 96% less land, contributes 89% less greenhouse gas emissions, and contributes 92% less freshwater pollution than a burger made from cows. Impossible Sausage generates far less greenhouse gas emissions than sausage from pigs and uses 79% less water and 41% less land than sausage from pigs.
Impossible Foods’ mission is to produce a full range of meats and dairy products made from plants for every region in the world. They’re working on a variety of next-generation products that will revolutionize the way we view the food that fuels our body and protects our planet. We can’t wait to see what comes next.