Impossible or imposter? A blind taste test of the new Impossible Burger

The livestock industry has been in the crosshairs of many organizations claiming environmental, health and welfare concerns. One area of the sector gaining negative attention is large cattle operations and the effects of methane emissions on climate change. One company is determined to eliminate this concern completely.

On their website, Impossible Foods states their mission is to save the earth by eliminating the consumption of animals.

If I were to save the earth, I wouldn’t start with meat consumption, but hey, their ambitious objective piqued my interest.

Now, in the next few paragraphs, I’m going to let my nerdy side show. I promise to keep it brief, but I think it’s important to cover some of the background on where this Impossible Burger became a possibility.

It comes down to the secret ingredient, heme.

At the most basic level, the team at Impossible Foods is making meat from plants. You might be thinking; how does this differ from other veggie burgers? Well, it comes down to the secret ingredient, heme.

According to the company, heme is what gives meat its flavor and it is what will allow Impossible plant-based products to compete with traditional hamburger patties.

Heme is a molecule present in both animal and plant cells. Most are familiar with the protein hemoglobin, which helps oxygenate our bodies. You guessed it. Heme is a building block for this well-known protein.

Although, heme can be found in abundance in multiple plants, the mission is to reduce the environmental impact. Thus, Impossible Foods needed to develop a way to produce heme, while reducing the inputs a typical crop or animal would need, which led them to yeast fermentation.

Combining the genes of a soy plant and a genetically engineered yeast, they are able to produce heme using a fermentation process similar to the production of your favorite beer. By doing so, they claim significant reductions in land and water use and less greenhouse gas emissions (aka less cow farts).

These are great benefits, but does is really taste the same as a conventional burger?

According to Impossible Foods, “In blind taste tests, more and more people say they prefer our product over a burger from cows — and our results keep improving.”

I immediately had to try it for myself.

When I read that quote, I immediately had to try it for myself.

Here in Lubbock, you can get the Impossible Burger at Red Robin. My husband and I conducted our own blind taste test to determine if the Impossible Burger could satisfy our meaty craving. With help from our waitress, we examined the burgers without knowing the origin of the meat patty.

We decided on two categories, appearance and taste.

Honestly, there were subtle appearance differences. Both were the appropriate color, with a bit of char from the grill. The conventional burger was a little thicker, but overall, there were minimal differences even when cutting the burgers in half.

Our taste appraisals varied. We both noticed a difference in texture with the Impossible Burger having a finer grain. I noticed a slight aftertaste that I couldn’t quite pinpoint, which is why I gave it a 3/5. However, my husband’s rating was more favorable giving it a 4/5.

As we discussed our thoughts, we agreed if compared to a fast food chain such as McDonalds or Burger King, it’s possible it would have been a closer match.

Notice I didn’t put Whataburger in the mix. There is nothing quite like the Patty Melt with a Dr. Pepper. But, back to the Impossible Burger, or should I say Impossible Whopper.

That’s right, Burger King is currently selling the Impossible Whopper in select cities.

I wouldn’t choose the Impossible Burger over a conventional burger.

In my opinion, I wouldn’t choose the Impossible Burger over a conventional burger. The taste didn’t quite meet my standard. However, I do see the potential for using it as a meat substitute for stews, pastas, or even enchiladas.

I’m curious to see what the future holds for Impossible Foods and the potential influence this will have on the livestock industry.  If anything, this new product is an exciting avenue for innovation in the food sector.