Scientific Review: The Impossible Burger

What: The Impossible Burger
Where: Fatburger, but also available in select other locations (keep reading)
Rating (1-5): 🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿

I’ve mentioned on here before that I wasn’t always aligned with vegetarian tendencies in my cooking or eating. I have been a notable carnivore in my day, which means I can consume and cook up a mean protein.

Even still, I had never been to Fatburger, despite it being just down the road from where I live. The location nearest to me is honestly a bit hidden, and I tend to see most burger places like it – Slap Daddy’s, Five Guys, In-N-Out – as linear experiences. That’s not to say that places that thrive off of gigantic and/or sloppy burgers aren’t good in their own right. Trust me, I’ve never been disappointed! But eating lighter means avoiding temptation and weighed-down foods.

However, one fateful afternoon, we went into Fatburger for some lunch. My husband had been with coworkers more than once, thus he knew how to play the game. Despite my dietary shift, I was willing to see what they had, in hopes that they might have a veggie option that I could throw down on. Regardless, Fatburger is renowned around here, and I was a very hungry gal.

Stepping inside, I saw tons of options for fries, burgers and even different proteins. We went up to the counter, and I asked for a veggie burger – happy to even see one. The cashier smiled and said, “Oh, do you wanna try out the Impossible Burger?” (Somehow I had missed the shiny signage pointing towards their newest menu item – everywhere.) “It’s veggie but with a nice meaty taste!” Luckily, this guy caught me right after I saw a delectable post on Instagram from a vegetarian friend, and my tattoo artist, who had the Impossible Burger at Grindhouse Killer Burgers in Atlanta a couple of weekends before.  Excited, I said yes!

The Impossible Burger comes with a flyer full of information on what the Impossible Burger is. According to the Impossible Foods folks themselves:

The Impossible Burger is made from simple ingredients found in nature, including wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, and heme. Heme is responsible for the characteristic of taste and aroma of meat, it catalyzes all the flavors when meat is cooked. Heme is exceptionally abundant in animal muscle – and it’s a basic building block of life in all organisms, including plants. We discovered how to take heme from plants and produce it using fermentation.

Fatburger took about as long making my husband’s burger as they did the Impossible Burger – preparing it, adding toppings, etc. – which was nice to know that the wait wasn’t long despite my different order. I ordered mine with lettuce, tomato and cheese. When I got it, I was surprised at how much it looked like meat. I’m not one who believes that in order to “survive” a vegetarian or vegan diet you have to find things that replace your meaty dishes. There’s so much that you can do with a plant-based diet that is definitely still worth exploring without feeling as though you’re “missing out”. But sometimes you run across a meat-substitute that you just can’t resist.

The Impossible Burger has a distinctive, fresh-off-the-grill meaty aroma. Its texture gave me a chewy burger-like grit to tear off and enjoy. The taste even had the nutty, meaty and juicy experience of a normal burger. The Impossible Burger gets 5 out of 5 from me. I even had my husband try a bite, and he agreed that it was well worth it. He let me try a bite of a Fatburger beef burger, and while the two weren’t identical in flavor, they shared the same texture and juiciness. How often can you say that about an alt diet food?

The best part about this burger was that it didn’t weigh me down at all. Seriously. I felt satiated, but I didn’t feel full, and I had a lot of energy after our meal – which was great, because we had to immediately grocery shop afterward. I can’t remember the last time I had such a satisfying burger that didn’t make me feel like I had gained 5 pounds of grease with it.

Impossible Foods also makes it easy to demand that this plant-based burger come to a location near you, through https://demandimpossible.com


Now that we’ve gotten into how good this burger was, let’s talk about the science of this plant-based burger. First, the full ingredients, cited by Impossible Foods:

Water, Textured Wheat Protein, Coconut Oil, Potato Protein, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Leghemoglobin (soy), Yeast Extract, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Konjac Gum, Xanthan Gum, Vitamin C, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Zinc, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.

Contains:
Soy, Wheat

But what does this mean? First, let’s take a look at the long-named ingredient you’re likely staring at in confusion. This burger raves about its use of heme, from leghemoglobin (soy).

This soy hemoglobin is a hemoprotein found in leguminous plants – legumes, beans. Just as certain hemoglobins carry oxygen and iron through our blood, leghemoglobin is an oxygen carrier for plants. Even more specifically, in order to find the soy hemoglobin, the plant must be rooted in colonies that share the Rhizobium bacteria in common. In order for Impossible Foods scientists to take the soy hemoglobin and make it the harvested heme, they add it to yeast, creating a fermentation process that genetically modifies the yeast so that it can grow, and the scientists can isolate the heme for their “meat”.

(The rest of the ingredients are primarily easy to identify and known vitamins. Xanthan gum is often fermented from sugars, while konjac gum is harvested from konjac plants.)

The best part about this process is that you also are getting the iron from the hemoglobin which helps with healthy skin, nails, hair, and energy.

Now, you may be wondering if having genetically modified foods is really safe. People and media often turn their noses to GMOs as if they were sent by the Devil himself. We all remember the scare from a handful of years ago. Let’s breakdown the pros and cons as they relate to the Impossible Burger:

  • GMOs, like the work of Impossible Foods, make for a strong competitor against the meat industry whose practices and shortcuts have put the environment, animals and local farms at risk of pollution, disease and crop-anemia.
  • The plants harvested are herbicide and weather-tolerant.
  • Due to the newness of GM harvests, there isn’t a lot of long-term research regarding what effects GMOs have on us. But there are multiple focus groups and scientists who are constantly working to improve the business for our health and future discovery.
  • The ability to boost foods with more nutritional artifacts comes from GMO practices.
  • There is some concern that the way that these crops are harvested may lead to the spreading of the genes that make-up their herbicidal resistance, leading to wild plants such as “super weeds” that are impervious to most methods of tilling and whacking in the fields, as well as other contamination.
  • GMOs yield more crops, and they can create foods that are easier to send to more remote locations.
  • The FDA requires that GMOs meet the same standards and requirements of non-GMO foods.
  • GMO foods can trigger those with allergies, or trigger new allergies in the populace, and some studies show a concern for a resistance to antibiotics.
  • GMO foods can also help those with allergies, as they can be modified to remove the allergens that trigger reactions in their victims.

The long and short of it is this: Like anything, moderation is key. Make sure you have a balanced meal, and don’t rely on just GMOs. Just because the Impossible Burger is impossibly great, doesn’t mean that one for every meal, or one even every day is your best idea. Be sure you’re focusing in on what is good for you and makes you feel good. The more fresh your ingredients is still probably your best bet throughout the week.

Enjoy videos? Wired also did a breakdown of the Impossible Burger’s make-up and followed Impossible Foods scientists around to see their process up-close:

Hope you enjoyed this review and scientific breakdown! I certainly felt a little like Alton Brown in this post. Have you tried the Impossible Burger yet?

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