By Rachel Konrad, Chief Communications Officer, Impossible Foods
Impossible Foods makes delicious, nutritious, sustainable meat from plants. We strive to make products that, based on the best available scientific evidence, are better for people and the planet than the products they replace.
Because our products threaten the incumbent meat industry, “Big Beef” has launched a campaign to sow fear and doubt about plant-based meat. The campaign’s central message is that meat from plants may not be healthy and is “hyper processed.”
We beg to differ. The Impossible Burger is vastly better for the planet than burgers from cows — and it’s nutritious, too.
What really matters
Let’s look beyond the slogans and buzzwords. What really matters to consumers who care about their health and the wholesomeness of the foods they choose for themselves and their families? Nobody judges the safety and wholesomeness of a recipe they consider or a dish on a restaurant menu by the number of ingredients or the number and complexity of the steps in its preparation. Their attention, as it should be, is not on the number but the choice of ingredients. Are the ingredients safe and wholesome, and does this food fit into a well-balanced, diverse and healthy diet for myself and my family?
At Impossible Foods, we are unshakably committed to offering our consumers safe, healthy and delicious foods. We carefully scrutinize, investigate and select every ingredient with that commitment in mind. Indeed, we will never sell a product unless we believe, based on the best available evidence, that it is better for the health of the consumer and the planet than the product it replaces.
Facts over fiction
First, the facts: The plant-based Impossible Burger delivers as much protein, bioavailable iron and key micronutrients as animal-derived beef, without the many downsides associated with beef.
A quarter-pound Impossible Burger has 0 mg cholesterol, 14 grams of total fat, 8g of saturated fat and 240 calories in a quarter-pound patty. A quarter-pound, conventional “80/20” patty from cows has 80 mg cholesterol, 23 grams of total fat, 9g of saturated fat and 290 calories. Please see our Nutrition Information, and Safety and Transparency Report for more details, and read this blog post for specific questions on health.
Second, the Impossible Burger gets better and better. Unlike the cow, we never stop striving to improve the quality and nutritional value of our product. In January 2019, we launched the first major product upgrade since our 2016 debut — the Impossible Burger 2.0 — with 30% lower sodium and 40% less saturated fat than its predecessor.
Third, the Impossible Burger has significant public health benefits because it has only a fraction of the land, water, climate and biodiversity impact of a burger made from cows. It doesn’t contribute to the antibiotics arms race or the well known risk of antibiotic resistance — one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today. And because it contains no animals whatsoever, the Impossible Burger has none of the noxious slaughterhouse contaminants that can be found in almost all ground beef from cows.
Finally, the Impossible Burger is vastly better for the planet than the product it replaces. Compared to beef from cows, the Impossible Burger:
Requires 87% less water.
Releases 89% fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Contributes 92% less water contamination, the major cause of “dead zones” in our oceans.
Spares 96% more land and habitat for nature and biodiversity.
Process makes perfect
In spite of all the benefits of the Impossible Burger, some critics try to dismiss it as “processed” — a shorthand pejorative intended to raise red flags among people who care about the food they eat.
The negative connotation behind “processed” comes from the fact that historically, foods that are mass-produced have often been optimized as junk foods to satisfy unhealthy cravings as cheaply and profitably as possible, at the expense of consumer health and nutrition. And many traditional food manufacturers have compounded the breach of their consumers’ trust by trying to conceal their choices with respect to health and nutrition from consumers. The problem isn’t that a food is processed — it’s food manufacturers who put profit above their responsibility for their customers’ well-being and right to make informed choices.
The reality is that every food we eat, whether prepared by a chef at a “farm to table” restaurant or in our own homes, involves processing — combining a select set of carefully chosen ingredients and processing them through dehydration, grinding, fermentation, blending or cooking. Food has always been a collaboration between nature and science. These careful, deliberate choices of ingredients and preparation steps, developed over thousands of years of discovery and experimentation, are all used to make something better than the sum of its parts in terms of flavor, variety or nutrition. They all use processes to go from farm to fork.
Impossible Foods has always been transparent and proud of the careful, deliberate choices that we’ve made for the health and nutrition of consumers. The Impossible Burger is produced by combining carefully selected ingredients, derived from plants or by fermentation, to create something magical. We are confident that our careful, evidence-based choices have resulted in a burger that is overall better for the consumer than the cow-derived burger it replaces — and vastly better for the health of the planet.
Bread, yogurt, apple pie and Impossible Burger
Some critics imply that people want only simple food with few ingredients. This flies in the face of thousands of years of increasingly complex food preparation rituals and cuisine. And the number of ingredients is completely irrelevant to health and nutritional value.
Consider bread — the seemingly simple staple of Western cuisine: People selectively breed wheat or other plants; they wash, soak and grind wheat seeds; they harvest and crystallize salt; they carefully select yeast and other microbes and add these to a complex mix; they knead the mixture to unfold and align the gluten proteins to make an elastic dough; they ferment and finally subject the mixture to high heat in a specifically engineered oven (otherwise known as baking). Mechanical processing, diverse and carefully isolated ingredients, and natural chemistry are required — and it took our ancestors years of trial and error to get the choice of ingredients and processes right. Yet the result of all this sophisticated research and experimentation is a “simple” processed food — a loaf of bread, desired and consumed by billions of people every day.
When someone serves you a delicious meal, do you count the ingredients? Not likely. But you probably do pay attention to their nutritional value and quality. Because you know that it’s not the number of ingredients that matters, but their quality and wholesomeness and the care and thought that goes into choosing them.
Similarly, Impossible Foods deliberately selects and combines various plant-based or fermentation-derived ingredients to make a delicious, nutritious new food — the Impossible Burger, which over the past three years has brought pleasure and nutritional value to millions of consumers.
Those who defend the use of animals as a food production technology play off fear and doubt. They disparage plant-based ingredients as “chemicals.” Reality: Everything we eat is a collaboration of nature and science — including all the ingredients in the Impossible Burger, which started in a farmer’s field or were made using familiar fermentation methods. The Impossible Burger is as processed as a freshly-baked apple pie.
As for ground beef from cows, the reality is different from the postcard images the beef industry wants you to imagine when and if you think about where your meat comes from. Cows are a destructive, invasive species in America, driving a disastrous meltdown in the diverse native species that supported stable, healthy, biodiverse ecosystems for millennia.
Simple and natural? Not exactly. Virtually all cows in America today are conceived by artificial insemination, treated with growth-promoting hormones and antibiotics, and housed in bleak and miserable conditions, ending in their death and processing in a slaughterhouse rife with fecal aerosol and other contaminants. Nothing could be further from nature.
Despite increasing calls from experts for a more plant-based diet, worldwide meat production has grown unabated, tripling over the last four decades, according to Worldwatch Institute. Not coincidentally, over the same four decades, populations of wild mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians have collapsed — largely crowded out by domestic livestock, especially cows. The population of terrestrial wildlife today is less than half what it was 40 years ago. Global meat production is projected to double again by 2050, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Will there be any wildlife left by then?
If we continue to use animals to meet the projected demand, we are headed for an unprecedented global environmental catastrophe. The greenhouse gas footprint of animal agriculture already rivals that of every car, truck, bus, ship, airplane, and rocket ship combined. Animal agriculture pollutes and consumes more water than any other industry. The global meat, fish and dairy industry is overwhelmingly the primary driver of the ongoing meltdown in diverse wildlife populations and ecosystems on land and in oceans, rivers and lakes.
Impossible Foods has a different strategy — one that has a shot at working.
Instead of expecting people to give up meat, we accept that people crave it. And instead of vilifying meat and its fans — a tried-and-failed strategy that divides communities without slowing the destructive impact of animal farming — we have made it our singular mission to provide omnivores with a better choice: uncompromisingly delicious, nutritious, safe and affordable meat made from plants, with a vastly reduced impact on climate and biodiversity.
And instead of telling people what to eat, Impossible Foods offers people a better option in the free market. We put facts over fiction. We know that more and more people want transparency about what’s in their food — and we commit to giving them just that. Then it’s your choice.