Why the Impossible Burger needs vegan support to be successful

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The Impossible Burger is an entirely plant-based burger with vegan ingredients.  Impossible Foods developed this meat alternative to help eliminate the need for animal farming, according to impossiblefoods.com.  However, many vegans do not agree with the research the company used to develop it.  Unless Impossible Foods gains the full support of vegan consumers, the brand will not meet its goal of decreasing the presence of animals from the food industry.  To win vegan approval, Impossible Foods must find new methods to produce their products to accomplish their mission.

May 5, 2018 cover of New Scientist weekly science and technology magazine.  Courtesy of plantbasednews.org

Raising livestock for meat, eggs, and milk generates 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.  It also uses about 70 percent of agricultural land and is one of the leading causes of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution, according to theguardian.com.

To reduce these harmful effects, Dr. Patrick O. Brown, a geneticist, founded Impossible Foods in Redwood City, California in 2011, according to medium.com. Dr. Brown has been vegan for 15 years and holds an M.D. and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in biochemistry and chemistry.  He also has co-founded Lyrical Foods, which makes almond-based dairy products, and the Public Library of Science, a nonprofit organization that publishes science, technology, and medicine journals, according to tedmed.com.  

In order to create a burger that tasted and behaved like meat, scientists at Impossible Foods discovered that an iron molecule, called heme, is responsible for giving burgers and other meat products their unique flavor.  Leghemoglobin is a similar molecule found in all plants.  The company uses leghemoglobin from soybean plants to make their burgers taste like meat, according to impossiblefoods.com.

Many people already enjoy the Impossible Burger, and it continues to gain more and more popularity throughout the country and the world.  Since Impossible Burger’s initial release, July 2016, Americans have eaten more than 13 million Impossible Burgers. About five thousand restaurants in the United States, Hong Kong, and Macau sell the meat alternative.

Impossible Foods offers their burger in different forms including tacos, empanadas, pizza, breakfast sandwiches, chili cheese fries, meatballs, burgers, and baos. Courtesy of impossiblefoods.com.

In addition, the American fast-food chain White Castle sells the burgers nationwide, according to qsrmagazine.com.  Impossible Foods also recently announced a partnership with Burger King.  They will now be selling the Impossible Whopper, an alternative for Burger King’s signature burger, in St. Louis, Missouri and some locations in Illinois, according to impossiblefoods.com.

Although many restaurants around the world sell Impossible Foods products, there is controversy about how the company developed the meat-like burgers, according to plantbasednews.org. Dr. Brown admitted that the company used animal testing during the development process of the Impossible Burger.  They fed portions of heme to the animals to ensure that the amount in the burgers would not cause harmful side effects, according to impossiblefoods.com.
This upset many people in the vegan community, as it does not uphold their beliefs regarding animal safety and anti-animal testing.  In addition, because of the animal testing, the Impossible Burger lost the support of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), according to plantbasednews.org.

It is crucial that vegans support this burger, because, although they are not the desired main consumers, their acceptance of it will show meat eaters, the targeted consumers, that they should go out of their way to accept the alternative option.  Meat-eaters will not care to switch to an “impossible burger” if vegans themselves refuse to eat it.

So, Impossible Foods needs to ensure that all of its actions and policies align with vegan ideals.  Although they are continuing to sell in more locations and gaining more non-vegan support, they will not reach their goal of creating significant change in the food industry without the support of those who already believe in their mission.

Impossible Foods should make the necessary changes to the production process so that vegans and meat-eaters alike accept their products.  In fact, animal testing goes against the company’s mission. So, by halting that research and seeking alternative methods, the company will uphold its foundational beliefs, while pleasing a huge population of potential consumers.

Featured Image by Lé-Anne Johnson ’21