We all have heard of the new alternative meat that is too good it has to be impossible. A meat alternative that tastes, smells, and even bleeds like real meat. The Impossible corporation is a meat alternative that claims to be a sustainable and healthy alternative to actual meat. As a vegetarian of almost eight years, I greatly appreciate the idea of eating meat again without the environmental impact, concerns about animal welfare, and health considerations. The major flaws of the meat industry are partaking in animal cruelty, producer of methane and other Greenhouse gases, land, and water overuse, and produced pollution and effluent waste. Being a vegetarian has major health benefits since it promotes eating a more plant-based diet and pushes me to be more creative with my cooking, as I cannot eat fast food. Still, the pros and cons to impossible meat will be discusses further in this blog.
Ingredient Sustainability and Heath Concerns
What makes the Impossible meat so impossible? According to the company’s website the meat alternative is derived completely from plants with proteins, flavors, fats, and binders. The impossible burger is manufactured from two methods of genetically engineering soy products. The first being Impossible meat, using GMO soybeans compared to organic soybeans that have higher levels of protein and lower levels of Omega 6 fatty acids. The company uses GMO soy protein concentrate and GMO soy protein isolate for the alternative meat to have high amounts of protein. The second being genetic engineering of soy produces “heme” which is what makes the meat bleed and taste meaty. This is done by taking DNA from the roots of soy plants where heme is created and inserting that into genetically engineered yeast that is then fermented to mass produce heme.
Are these ingredients better or worse to consume?
Impossible meat is “unapologetically processed” which seems like a given since it is the first meat alternative that is the most alike to real meat. Theses alternative meats are considered ultra-processed foods. Little is known about the long-term effect of consuming these ultra-processed foods. Despite impossible meat being in the category of ultra-processed foods the company has states that the updated recipe is, “tastier, juicier, and more nutritious”, with 40% less saturated fats than the old recipe and has as much protein as 80/20 ground beef from cows.
Impact on the environment
Since impossible meat is made entirely from plants, the environmental impact is less, compared to meat production. Meat production uses more land, water, and recourses than crop farming. According to the United Nations for climate change (UNFCC), “compared to beef, the Impossible Burger required 96% less land, 87% less fresh water, generated 89% less greenhouse gas emissions and resulted in 92% less pollution to freshwater ecosystems”. It was also stated that in 2018, Impossible Burger sales of beef spared the equivalent of 81,000 tones of greenhouse gas emissions, 3.4 billion liters of water and 100 square kilometers of land. From the impossible company they have conducted their own environmental impact report with Quantis. The UNFCC uses the information and stats from these reports since it is the only source of information provided for the impact of the Impossible Company.
The FDA is supposed to require testing of new food products so to not cause anyone an allergic reaction from the protein. Instead of having the company to file a new food additive petition the FDA allowed Impossible foods to use a weak regulatory process called, Generally Recognized as Safe or GRAS to allow the company to self-certify its product is safe for human consumption.
The idea of meatless meat is a great idea in theory, the impossible meat may be too good to be true. Though the alternative meat may be less harmful on the environment, the only evidence provided for that is from the company itself and private third parties. The alternative meat is ultra-processed and is not the healthiest option compared to sustaining from meat or just eating less meat. This is still a relatively new idea and needs much more work to become sustainable, but it does give hope to a society with less meat consumption. As a long time vegetarian, I am happy to see companies trying to make meat alternatives to improve environmental impacts and give people a more sustainable option to meat. I have tired impossible meat before and enjoy the taste and texture of the alternative meat. Since it is an ultra-processed food, I only eat it on occasion and when I can afford to buy it. Overall, I enjoy being able to eat meat that gives the same feeling as real meat but without the sever impacts of the actual meat industry.
-Posted by Abbi