Last month, while I was in Boston on assignment, my EIC took me out for lunch. Impossible Foods’ Impossible Burger was on the menu at the joint we went to. I had my doubts, as I ordered the thing, but it seemed like a rare opportunity to try the hard-to-find lab-grown burger that I shouldn’t pass up. It was absolutely delicious. Thanks to the FDA’s declaration that all of the ingredients in the Impossible patty are safe to consume, for most everyone, we might start seeing the plant-based meat in the wild a whole lot more often.
It’s not that there was anything poisonous or specifically dangerous in an Impossible Burger patty. Rather, to make their ‘meat,’ Impossible Foods used a part of the soybean plant that no one’s every really thought to eat before: the root.
Impossible Foods submitted the meat substitute for review back in 2014, but the FDA responded with concerns that its key ingredient, a protein known as soy leghemoglobin, might cause allergies and other adverse effects. The protein is commonly found in soy plants' roots, but since we don't typically eat that part of the plant, the FDA had reservations about its safety. In response, the company sent in more info, including results from a rat-feeding study, which convinced the agency to declare that the plant-based meat (and soy leghemoglobin) is "generally recognized as safe" for human consumption.
This is great news as it’s soy leghemoglobin that makes an Impossible Burger what it is. As Engadget points out, soy leghemoglobin comes with an iron-containing molecule called "heme," baked into it. Heme gives Impossible Foods’ meat substitute its meat-like taste and the meat ‘bleed,’ as is it were actually from an animal.
I was skeptical about the Impossible Burger when I heard about it. I love vegetarian cuisine from any number of different cultures, but I’ve always been disappointed by it when it poses as a meat product--but it wasn't the case this time around. If you have the opportunity—the burgers are available through thousands of locations across the U.S., including White Castle—you should definitely take an Impossible Burger for a spin. It’s like jamming the future in your mouth.
Image via flickr, courtesy of T.Tseng