Published by: Gourmet Sleuth
Last Updated: 03/18/2019
The Impossible Foods company was founded back in 2011 by Patrick O. Brown, a Stanford Biochemistry professor. The start-up headquartered in Redwood City, California. Mr. Brown's mission in short is to preserve the flavors and nutritional benefits of meat without all the environmental downsides of raising and slaughtering live animals. According to the company making Impossible Burger takes 75% less water and produces 87% less greenhouse gas than conventional beef. The Impossible Burger was the first product released by the company in July, 2016.
The product has gone through two recipe incarnations. You can see the ingredients below of the first and 2nd generation recipe. The main differences in the second gen product which was launched in January, 2019, is the replacement of wheat with soy protein. There were adjustments to the vitamins added to make the burger more nutritionally equivalent to real beef, a reduction of sodium, a 40% reduction of saturated fat, and overall improvement of the meat-like texture. Additionally the product is now gluten free.
This is a comparison between the original burger recipe, the new recipe, and regular ground beef (80% lean 20% fat).
*This is the natural amount of sodium in raw beef and does not include and salt you've added to your burger.
Since 2016 the product was primarily sold to large and mostly high-end restaurants like Momofuku Nishi in New York and Jardiniere in San Francisco. They continued to expand their distribution to more local smaller restaurants like Mendocino Farms in California, Even burger chain Umami Burger has deemed it their official vegetarian burger and sells two variations; the Classic Impossible Cheeseburger and the Impossible Trufflemaker.
Impossible Foods opened up distribution to Whitecastle to add their burger to the establishment's slider offering. More importantly; the company announced in January, 2019 that they plan to release the product to retail outlets this year.
The fact that the burger has a "rare beef" appearance is to help lure in the carnivores. It certainly looks like real beef when cut open. On the outside, at least with the burger I tried, you could tell it was formed and pressed and that detracted from the look of real beef. So back to the bleeding feature.
The ingredient that creates this "bleeding" effect is called heme, or also referred to as "plant blood". Heme is an organic molecule found in the protein leghemoglobin. Heme is extracted from roots of nitrogen-fixing plants such as fava beans, peas and beans. You can read more about the details here.
The heme in Impossible Burger is made using a yeast engineered with the gene for soy leghemoglobin. First, we grow yeast via fermentation. Then, we isolate the soy leghemoglobin (containing heme) from the yeast, and add it to the Impossible Burger, where it combines with other micronutrients to create delicious, meaty flavor.
Everyone wants to know "what's in Impossible Burger". Here are the ingredients in the original recipe which are still used in many restaurants.
Water, Textured Wheat Protein, Coconut Oil, Potato Protein, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Leghemoglobin (Soy), Yeast Extract, Salt, Konjac Gum, Xanthan Gum, Soy Protein Isolate, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Zinc, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.
These are the ingredients which are used in some restaurants and will be in the retail products available sometime in 2019.
Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B1
Here are examples of restaurants and eating establishments that offer Impossible Burgers. Cleary the prices vary significantly depending on where you dine and what options are available. These prices are at the time of this writing, 2019.
Manzanita - Ritz Carlton, NorthStar - Ok, so you don't come here and expect cheap. I paid $28.00 for my Impossible Cheeseburger including a small side salad. This is the highest price I've seen. I have to say I really like Manzanita and this is an awesome Ritz Carlton so I only feel a little bit guilty for paying that price.
Umami Burger - They offer a few variations but expect to pay about $14.00 a burger. The burger is limited to specific locations, see their website.
Momofuku Nishi - A cheeseburger will set you back about $18.00
Jardiniere - The Impossible Burger is only served after 7pm and the cost is about $18.00 with cheese.
Whitecastle - An Impossible Burger Slider goes for the bargain price of $1.99. They are only available at some locations.
Mendocino Farms - Offers seasonal Impossible Burgers that average about $12.65 a burger.
I think the most unsettling issue is that you are trading a fully natural product for a highly processed product. There is a lot of controversy about the healthfulness of unfermented soy products. The fact is you'll find soy isolates in thousands of packaged and processed food. I try to avoid processed foods in general so at least for me if I add one product to my diet it's probably not a big deal. You may want to read this article Soy Facts and Myths .
Personally, based on trying the burger you see here, I will try the new product when it appears on retail shelves. I doubt I'll become a complete vegetarian any time soon but I'll do what I can to make a dent in the amount of beef I buy. If most of us do that we can make a big difference. You can use the vegetarian burger meat as a replacement in any recipe that calls for ground beef.