The ‘vegetarian meat’ burger

The ‘vegetarian meat’ burger

A US-based start-up is busy popularising a burger that tastes like a ground beef burger, but is made from plant-based ingredients.

Journalists taste test the plant based hamburgers during a media tour of Impossible Foods labs and processing plant in Redwood City, California, U.S. October 6, 2016. Picture taken October 6, 2016.  REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach
Now, a ‘meat’ that vegetarians can eat! (Source: Reuters)

It looks like a meat, it smells like meat, but does it taste like meat? According to many who have tried the Impossible Foods’ burger paté, when put in the context of a burger, this plant-based non-meat paté actually passes the taste test.

So, as bizarre as it sounds… you have a meat burger, but no meat! This very idea should make it ideal for immediate shipping of the food technology to India, don’t you think?

Workers assemble the plant-based hamburger patties. (Source: Reuters)

Last week, the start-up held a media tour of its lab, giving journalists a taste of this novel technology. The burger has been engineered in a lab in its entirety. According to CNET report, “We look for each of those elements that make meat, meat,” said Celeste Holz-Schietinger, a principal scientist for Impossible Foods, during a tour of the company’s Redwood City, California, lab. “That little bit of fat leak-out. Those meaty, those roasty, those caramelised notes.”

According to various reports, the company has hired a host of molecular biologists and engineers to make sure they get not only the flavour profile on point, but also the nutrient value should duplicate ground beef, providing the same amount of amino acids, vitamin B and some extra protein.

This is the ingredient that makes the paté meat-like. (Source: Reuters)
Ingredients for plant-based hamburgers, including a protein gel, are on display during a media tour of Impossible Foods labs and processing plant. (Source: Reuters)

Made of vegan products such as wheat protein, soy, some water and salt, what apparently sets thus burger apart is an ingredient called heme, or leghemoglobin. This is found in animal muscle tissue and is responsible for bringing oxygen to the blood and making it turn red. “It also gives meat that tangy, bloody, vinegar taste. And, weirdly, it can also be found in the roots of soybeans,” says Techcrunch. But Impossible Foods has taken the genetic sequencing of the soy plants to produce heme in its Silicon Valley lab – molecule by molecule.

Workers arrange portions of the plant-based hamburger patties for testing. (Source: Reuters)
A small scale fermentor using yeast to produce the leghemoglobin (heme) for a plant-based hamburger. (Source: Reuters)

Not that Impossible Foods is doing something that others haven’t tried. There’s Beyond Meat that has a whole range of faux meat products, and another called Hampton Creek.

Currently, the plant-based burger is available in several high-end restaurants across New York and San Francisco, but the company intends to expand to other regions as well. In India, many people substitute meat for nutrinugget, but let’s face it, it’s not really the same. This might just make the cut, though!