Fake burger that could save the world

Veggie: A non-meat burger by Beyond Meat is suitable for the 3.5 million vegans in the UK.

Is a meat-free diet to preserve our planet the future of eating? The value of the start-up, Impossible Foods, which makes a convincing alternative meat burger, has soared to $2 billion.

It looks like meat, oozes “blood” when bitten into, and even sizzles in the frying pan. But this new type of burger is 100% meat-free. And the industry is booming.

Impossible Foods, a plant-based meat start-up, has just raised $300 million from investors. It is now valued at around $2 billion.

And it’s not alone. Rival company Beyond Meat makes “bleeding” burgers from yellow peas, potato starch and beetroot juice. The ingredients give a “meatiness” to the patties, which can be cooked rare to well-done.

Beyond Meat hopes that having its products readily available alongside traditional meat products will “help people on their journey” to eating less meat. McDonald’s has also started selling similar McVegan burgers, while KFC is experimenting with fake-meat fried chicken.

Imitation meat has already made a big impact in the US, where many fast-food stores now sell the meat-free Impossible Burger.

Its creator, biochemist Patrick O. Brown, believes it can have a profound effect on the planet. “For me, the primary motivation was the huge environmental impact [of meat-eating],” he says. “We want to save this wonderful planet for future generations.”

Indeed, producing an Impossible Burger uses 95% less land and 74% less water than a typical beef patty.

If more people stopped eating meat, the results could be huge.

According to a study published in June, avoiding meat and dairy is the “single biggest way” for an individual to reduce their impact on the environment — a vegan diet is far more effective than driving an electric car, or cutting down on air travel.

The meat and dairy industries are responsible for 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Without them, global farmland could be reduced by over 75% — an area equivalent to the US, China, the EU and Australia put together.

Livestock farming also consumes huge amounts of freshwater and contributes significantly to water and air pollution.

Could vegan “meat” save the planet?

It burgers belief

It is possible, some argue. Imitation meat is a game changer in encouraging people to adopt a meat-free diet. In fact, Impossible Foods (the company behind the Impossible Burger) wants to completely replace animals as a food production technology by 2035. If this happens, the positive effects on the environment will be extraordinary and unparalleled.

Steady on, others respond. There is little to suggest that this food fad will extend beyond its current home in urban millennial hubs. Meat-eating is enshrined in a myriad of cultures and will not just die out. Agriculture presents huge environmental problems, but solutions must be sought in a range of sectors, including energy and transport. Fake-meat burgers are no silver bullet.

You Decide

  1. Would you eat a fake-meat burger?
  2. Should we all be vegetarians?

Activities

  1. Consider this statement: “It is immoral to eat animals.” Write down three reasons in support of this statement, and three reasons against. Discuss your ideas with your classmates. Which side do you agree with?
  2. Watch Patrick O. Brown’s speech by following the first link in Become An Expert. Note down the phrases and statements which you find particularly effective. Is his speech convincing? Why or why not? Do you think the solutions he encourages will work?

Some People Say...

“Being a vegan is a first-world phenomenon: completely self-indulgent.”

Anthony Bourdain

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Meatless burger company, Impossible Burger, has raised $300 million from investors. Their rivals, Beyond Burgers, are available to buy at 350 Tesco supermarkets around the country. Statistics show that meat and dairy provide 18% of the world’s calorie intake, and 37% of its protein — however, meat and dairy use 83% of farmland to make. Research also shows that 86% of all land mammals are either livestock or humans.
What do we not know?
According to a survey conducted by Waitrose, in the past five years, a third of Britons have either cut back on their meat intake or stopped eating meat altogether. We do not know if this number will increase in coming years. Impossible Burgers have been described as tasting “remarkably like beef”. However, it is up to consumers to judge for themselves.

Word Watch

Beetroot juice
This is the ingredient which gives the burger its meat-like bloodiness.
McVegan
Only available in Sweden and Finland.
Experimenting
The new vegetarian fried chicken dish is due to be released in the UK later this year.
Fast-food
One of the burger’s most high-profile distributors is the fast-food chain White Castle.
Impossible Burger
Different from the burger Tesco is selling. Its key ingredient is a molecule called “heme”. This is usually found in meat, but the burger’s creators have patented a plant-based source.
Study
“Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers” by J. Poore and T. Nemecek.
Pollution
Figures show that livestock farming accounts for 57% of all agricultural water pollution, and 56% of air pollution.