So, I finally tried the Impossible Burger. I say that with a tinge of guilt because there is some debate within the vegan community as to whether or not this burger is a legit plant-based meat substitute. Not because of the way it tastes, but because of how it’s been created.
So, before I get to the review, let’s start from the beginning…
Impossible Foods launched back in 2016, revolutionizing the vegan food market with the Impossible Burger— a plant-based burger made with their exclusive, primary ingredient, soy leghemoglobin. Supposedly, this burger looked, tasted and felt like the “real” thing — or what omnivores know to be a burger when it is comprised of beef derived from cows. It was a hit– all over vegan Instagram were pictures of the vegan bleeding burger. What was responsible for that redness that made it look like you had a medium to medium-well burger on your plate? You guessed it; that key ingredient of soy leghemoglobin.
Sound great so far?
Well, it almost was until it was revealed that Impossible Foods had conducted animal testing using lab rats to create this phenomenal new burger.
Why would they need to conduct animal testing to create a vegan burger? And doesn’t that go against the values of the vegan community? Like not harming animals? And being cruelty-free?
Good point. Yes. Yes. And yes.
To answer everything inquiring minds wanted to know (myself included), the CEO of Impossible Foods released an official statement for the company entitled The Agonizing Dilemma of Animal Testing. The statement explained (in part) that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has specific requirements when it comes to “uncommon ingredients” getting the stamp of approval for human consumption. Impossible Foods’ exclusive heme protein, soy leghemoglobin, was indeed considered an uncommon ingredient. To meet the rigorous requirements of the FDA, Impossible Foods decided that they would conduct experiments using animal testing to ensure the FDA that the protein was safe for humans to eat.
Pat Brown, The Agonizing Dilemma of Animal Testing
“The billions of people around the world who love meat and fish and dairy foods will not be persuaded to stop consuming these foods by pleading or arguing or encouraging them to try a plant-based diet.”
I highly suggest reading the statement (linked in the previous paragraph) because if you read it with an open mind, and more importantly, an open heart, you may see the bigger picture that Pat Brown, the CEO of Impossible Foods, likely has. According to Brown, heme, an iron-containing compound that gives beef that distinct taste and flavor is essential to creating meat substitutes because omnivores crave that taste and flavor. This is an argument I am totally here for because one of my motivating factors as a plant-based recipe developer is that flavors and seasoning and texture are what we are really looking for when we eat our food — we don’t need animal flesh to get that stuff! In addition to their mission to recreate beef flavors in plant-based burgers, Impossible Foods does purposely and specifically seek to change the way omnivores look at vegan food. According to a rep for the company at the recent Natural Foods Expo West convention in California, Impossible Foods’ audience is a “meat-eater” and so they “target first and foremost” just that… meat-eaters.1
Initially, when I discovered the animal testing scandal, I was totally anti-Impossible. I hadn’t tried the burger yet and I didn’t plan on doing so. I even messaged a popular vegan chef when I saw him partaking of an Impossible burger in one of his stories, essentially asking him if he thought it was an ethically okay choice to consume that burger given the animal testing. He ignored me. And I’m glad he did. And by the way, if that vegan chef ever happens to read this and you remember me messaging you about your burger, I’m sorry I bothered you but I was very much in my feelings about that lab testing. I’ve since reconciled our relationship, and at this point, my views on the matter have shifted– quite a bit actually.
Similar to a point I made in my last blog post about boycotting businesses that don’t meet many of our ethical and moral vegan standards, the same idea applies here. I now feel we have to look at the bigger picture and fight for the greater good. Sometimes we have to make small sacrifices to achieve astronomical results. Losing the life of a few to save the lives of hundreds of thousands is still a difficult choice, but it’s one that does show hope and progress toward a place that is so much better than the one we are in now. Impossible Foods is working toward a vegan revolution, and I think all vegans can agree that this is definitely something we can get behind. This may not be everyone’s view but it’s where I stand, and judging by the success of the Impossible Burger, it’s the mindset of many other vegans as well.
With that, let’s get on to the review part! First, let me say that I’m a BIG burger fan. I’ve been obsessed with burgers since I was a kid, so trying the many vegan versions that exist has been intriguing but in the back of my mind, I always knew these burgers had large buns– I mean shoes, to fill. I know, I know– insert corny joke here.
I tried the Impossible Burger via the slider version that is being sold at White Castle. Wow. It’s good. It’s really good. Everything they promise is there: “meaty flavor” and texture are on point for sure. It would taste a lot better with some vegan cheese, but then again, what doesn’t taste better with cheese? But even without the cheese, it stands up to the challenge of recreating a great, flavorful burger that is cruelty-free. It’s also filling — I had my sliders with fries but tried to focus on eating the sliders first to get the flavor profile and see how it went down in my tummy. The pieces were grinding apart in my mouth the same way I remember ground beef doing, and it’s weird because while chewing, some parts reminded me of meat but then other times I could tell it wasn’t meat– but I’m unsure if the latter part was psychological and simply a byproduct of me knowing that I was, in fact, eating plants.
Honestly speaking, I believe this burger would hands down fool a hungry omnivore, however, it isn’t a doppelganger for beef. Upon closer inspection, you can definitely tell it’s a plant-based substitute. Personally, that doesn’t bother me one bit, and I know a lot of vegans actually prefer that, as a reminder of the dead and likely tortured animals they used to consume is not something they want on their plates. But again, the goal is to convert as many omnis as possible– and we have to bring them in with what they know to be familiar already.
I really want to try this in a bigger burger form, so I might even do a second part to this review when I get a chance to have another Impossible Burger. And now is the perfect time to do so, because in January of this year, Impossible Foods released the Impossible Burger 2.0— an updated, gluten-free version of the patty. I’m excited to try it and I’m looking forward to seeing what Impossible Foods will come up with next. Have you already tried the Impossible Burger? What did you think? Do you have an opinion on Impossible Foods conducting animal testing to get the green light on the burger? Let me know in the comments below!
1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nbf-Mz7-0mU (begins at 5:00; video courtesy of The Vegan Zombie)
Burger and fries image courtesy of Engin Akyurt via Pexels.com
Lab image courtesy of Pixababy via Pexels.com