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Instead of Growing Meat in a Lab, Why Not Make It Out of Plants?

“Plant blood” is the secret behind the I-can’t-believe-it-isn’t-meat company, Impossible Foods

smithsonian.com

A startup called Impossible Food claims to have created a game-changing burger alternative—plant-based foods that both look like meat and taste just as good. 

Patrick Brown, a former Stanford University biochemistry professor, founded the company after stumbling across what he calls "plant blood," the Wall Street Journal reports. While working in his lab several years ago, he discovered that plants' heme—a compound found in hemoglobin—can take on strikingly meat-like flavors when combined with various amounts of sugars and amino acids. Brown's engineers have also figured out ways to mold plant tissue into the equivalent of animal fat, muscle and connective tissue, the Wall Street Journal adds. 

The Impossible Burger smells and cooks like a normal hamburger would, but the Wall Street Journal notes that its taste isn't perfect—more akin to a turkey than a beef patty. A single patty also currently costs about $20 to produce, due to the large quantities of five plant species involved in its making. Brown thinks that improving the production process and scaling things up should lower that price, however. 

The most obvious customers for a bloody, plant-based burger are vegetarians and vegans who give up meat for environmental and animal rights reasons—not because they do not like the taste. But, considering how energy intensive creating burgers and other meat products is, if a plant-based alternative can do the same culinary work at a lower carbon price, it might be a good option for the rest of us, too.

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