It is difficult to persuade meat lovers to try a veggie burger and even more challenging to get them to like the flavor. Even if the patty used for a veggie burger has a similar cooked appearance on the outside, when biting into the veggie burger, there just is not the same taste sensation that meat lovers enjoy with eating beef hamburgers.
Meat patties have a juicy flavor that comes from the blood, which gives the hamburger a distinctive taste and adds a red color to the meat. This "bleeding” from a ground beef patty is a unique characteristic that differentiates a meat hamburger from a veggie burger. Veggie burgers have not been able to mimic this beef taste until now.
When Bill Gates was in his twenties, he tried to be a vegetarian; however, he missed the taste of meat so much, he soon went back to eating it. Now, as part of the efforts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he invested in companies making plant-based products that substitute for meats used for food. Business Insider reports that one of the companies Gates invested in is called Impossible Foods.
Gates made this investment not to encourage vegetarianism. Instead, he based his efforts on the need to reduce greenhouse gases that are caused by the impractical and wasteful methods of raising farm animals. Cattle-raising is not sustainable for the long-term and the greenhouse gases released by the cows are a major contributor to the negative impacts of climate change.
Impossible Foods was able to make a veggie burger taste and look more like beef by adding a chemical named “heme.” Heme is found in hemoglobin and is the chemical that causes our blood to be red.
Impossible Foods derived heme from a process using genetically-modified yeast to produce the same type of protein component that is found in blood. All was going reasonably well until the FDA challenged the company by demanding proof that eating heme was safe for consumers.
This created a controversy that had environmental activists complaining about the genetically-engineered food additive. The company had to convince the FDA that the GMO substance should be on the list of foodstuffs that the FDA considers generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Luckily for the company, they had already done enough research, which convinced the FDA that eating heme was safe.
Bill Gates was happy that he did not lose his investment in the company. Now, the research and development continues into more plant-based foods that resemble meat products. Those who want to try the taste of the veggie burger that “bleeds,” can initially find them being served on Air New Zealand flights and sold at White Castle restaurants, or they can try some competitors.
Outside of the Impossible Burger, meat-like veggie patties are starting to gain traction around the world. The Beyond Burger is starting to pick up some traction around the world. Fast Food chain A&W actually added the burger to their menu, to sit alongside their meat-based patties (editor's note: we've actually tried the beyond burger at home and at A&W and can confirm it tastes like a regular meat-based option). While it may not have the same backing as the Impossible Burger, it's interesting to see this new trend.
Whether it's the Impossible Burger or the Beyond Meat Burger, we recommend you try one out. Even if you're a meat-lover, it would be an interesting taste test to see if you can spot a difference.