"You can smell that meaty char right off the grill," Laura Kliman, a senior flavor scientist and cook for the day at Impossible Foods' Silicon Valley test kitchen, tells C/Net.com. "We are striving to get that total meat experience."
“Striving” is the key word there, since Kliman is referring to the Impossible Burger 2.0, otherwise known as the second-generation attempt at creating a plant-based burger that looks, smells and tastes like beef.
I’ll admit, the logic of spending time and resources in an attempt to create a burger-like sandwich when burgers are readily available is lost on me. But it is apparently the life goal of Pat Brown, CEO and founder of Impossible Foods, the Silicon Valley start-up whose business model is plant-based concoctions to replace meat and dairy foods.
Okay, so it’s no surprise that a practicing carnivore like me would be skeptical of veggie burgers. Not that I have anything against vegetables, or salads for that matter. Nor do I have discriminatory tendencies against vegans or vegetarians, though practicing vegans should probably be disqualified from running for public office. (No, not really. Don’t @ me!)
But here’s the thing. Brown and his followers can eat all of the ground soy and chick peas covered in beet juice they want. Just stop with the warm, fuzzy messages about saving the planet and sending all the cows to a sanctuary.
Here’s what Brown told C/Net.com:
"Unlike the cow, we get better at making meat every single day. We have figured out an entirely new approach to making meat that gives us the ability to deliberately control and make improvements in flavor, texture, juiciness, appearance, cooking properties, shelf life, handling, cost of production, nutrition -- you name it."
Okay, I’ll name it. You can’t get better than the cow at making meat, because, well, your concoction isn’t meat. You’re working ever-so-hard to make your sandwich “like meat” because you know that’s what people want, except, of course, the 3% of the population that doesn’t eat meat.
A business model that targets just 3% of American consumers is destined for failure, which is why Impossible Foods and other faux meats must find other benefits of faux meats.
That’s where the “cows are killing the planet” propaganda becomes essential. Americans don’t buy products that are “striving” to be good. If your product doesn’t quite match the competition, you need another hook.
Brown told C/Net.com that his Impossible Foods can produce a burger using a fourth of the water and less than 4% of the land -- and emit one-tenth of the greenhouse gases -- than a conventional burger.
"The whole mission of the company is to completely replace the use of animals as a food technology globally, by 2035," he said. "And that is unequivocally the most important mission in the world, full stop."
That’s bluster from a CEO trying to sell a product. Activists are happy to tell you that eating a hamburger is equivalent to driving a Hummer, and that observing "Meatless Mondays" can save the world.
Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a University of California- Davis professor and air-quality specialist, is working to clarify the issue. His research shows that if all Americans adopted Meatless Mondays, the reduction in U.S. GHG emissions would total 0.6%. The transportation and energy sectors, meanwhile, contribute 27% and 31% of U.S. GHG emissions, respectively, and 58% combined.
Such data do not suggest Brown’s Impossible Burger will push beef out of the marketplace anytime soon.