The Impossible Burger: Can Anything Really Beat Meat?

Emma Zgonena

As vegetarianism and veganism rise to the top pages of health magazines, new and innovative non-meat, or plant based, options, including the Impossible Burger, are gaining popularity. Other popular non-meat meat companies include Beyond meat, Before the Butcher, MorningStar Farm, and Trader Joe’s, all of which each company’s goals are working towards greater sustainability for the environment and/or healthier or more versatile options for concerned consumers. 

The mission statement of Impossible Foods, the company that produces the Impossible Burger, is “Animal agriculture uses a tremendous amount of the world’s natural resources.” Although the mission is with good intent, many skeptics claim the taste of plant based products could never compare to that of real meat and the products do not provide the same nutrition content either. Impossible Foods also has a focus on providing proper nutrition and increasing accessibility, as seen in their recent much disputed addition to Burger King. 

The sustainability aspect of meat is definitely an important factor to new meatless meat options. According to the Institute of Food Technology, “the average conversion ratio of vegetable to animal protein is 10 to 1, which means that it takes about 10 lbs of feed protein to produce 1 lb of animal protein.” In addition, according to a Bloomberg study, “Between pastures and cropland used to produce feed, 41 percent of U.S. land in the contiguous states revolves around livestock.” This number includes not only the land on which the livestock is raised, but also all of the crop grown and needed to feed the livestock, which is significantly more than consumed by humans. 

Healthwise, Impossible meat has been approved by the FDA but some ingredients, including “heme,” which allow the burger to mimic the “bleed” of real beef, have been questioned. According to Heathline, when comparing a regular 113 gram serving of Impossible meat to 90% lean beef, both patties contain 240 calories which is where the similarities stop. The beef burger contains 29 grams of protein while the Impossible burger contains 19 grams of protein. In addition, the Impossible burger contains 9 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber while the beef burger contains neither. An important micronutrient for many vegans and vegetarians is vitamin B12, as it is usually only found in only meat sources, although the Impossible burger contains 130% of your daily value while the beef burger contains 48%. The Impossible burger does beat many vitamin and mineral categories compared to beef. On the other hand, vitamin K2 is solely found in the beef burger.  

One BCA sophomore who has tried the Impossible burger said, “It was an interesting experience… similar but also very different from the average burger.”

In addition to health and sustainability, it is clear “meatless meat” companies are also trying to widen accessibility. Plant-based meat can be found in supermarkets such as Shoprite, Target, Safeway, and Costco. As of August 8th, Impossible Whoppers are available at Burger King’s around the nation. Although these steps are being taken towards future sustainability, many still critique the taste and also factors such as plant-based meat being prepared on the same stoves as real beef, deeming the burgers no longer vegetarian or vegan. 

Another BCA sophomore said, “I would be willing to try different meatless meat products because I think they are better for the environment and possibly my health as well.”

There are many factors to consider in this debate of plant-based vs. real meat. Although there may not be a “right” answer, it is important to acknowledge all sides of the argument and take a serious look at the environment, the health and wellbeing of consumers, and the future.