Thursday, October 9, 2014

A "Bloody" Vegan Burger & the Growth of Plant Based Food

When news broke yesterday of Stanford Professor Patrick Brown's company Impossible Foods, my jaw hit the floor. It wasn't just the appearance of a burger nearly indistinguishable from one made from cows that shocked me (although clearly I need to get my hands on this product ASAP, even if it currently costs $20/patty), rather it was the amount of money invested in the company. $75 million to make the perfect veggie burger and other plant based foods. That's right, $75,000,000.00.
Look at the Burger!
These start up companies are raising serious change. Look at the innovative Hampton Creek, which makes the now ubiquitous Beyond Mayo, Just Cookies and soon a vegan egg. Is it a perfect storm? While vegan is becoming more mainstream (there is even a vegan tailgate blog!), high profile investors see something more.  They see the harmful effects animal based foods have on our bodies, the rising cost of healthcare and individuals contributing greater amounts to pay for their insurance. They see the damage animal based food does to the environment.  Mr. Brown is quoted as saying "livestock is an antiquated technology."  The current system just isn't sustainable and that means people's taste buds are up for grabs.

We aren't talking about merely creating new vegetables (like crossing a brussel sprout with kale). This is some cutting edge science.  Impossible Food's "bloody" burger contains heme, a molecule found in hemoglobin, the protein found in red blood cells.  This molecule also is found in the roots of legumes or nitrogen-fixed plants such as alfalfa or peanuts. The result is what looks like a burger you'd get at a bar in middle America, one that has never served anything vegan.
Miyoko's Cheese
Is this a sign of things to come? Not all people are fond of replacing animal products with a copy cat substitute and insist we should simply "eat more vegetables." To be frank, this is not a winning argument. The American palate craves something more and the investors in Impossible Food, Hampton Creek and other are betting they have that something.  While, the trillion dollar animal farming industry won't go down without a fight, we are headed in the right direction.
My First Vegan Meal
This isn't 2010 when this UN report from 2010 said, "Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products." Well, UN, I'd challenge you to try some of the foods mentioned in this article and tell me there aren't alternatives.  We have come a long way in the past few years. I remember my first meal as a vegan like it was yesterday: kidney beans, brown rice and kale. Nothing fancy and not that tasty. Some people need a little extra push.

Beyond Meat Pulled BBQ Chicken Sammies
And this is where we come in. Yes, the readers of Hold the Pigskin and countless other vegans have to put on their Sunday best and show the world vegan food is downright amazing. It won't be that hard with the help of innovative companies making awesome plant based foods. You know I am a huge fan of Field Roast, the artisan grain meat company in Seattle. Beyond Meat makes some awesome chicken strips and beef crumbles.  Miyoko's Kitchen has hand crafted cheeses fit for the finest wine and cheese party. These folks and others are pushing the envelope and delighting our taste buds. Who wouldn't want a seat at this table?

2 comments:

  1. I think that burger looks totally disgusting!!!.. if I want it to look at a bloody piece of meat then I probably wouldn't be a vegan.. although I do not believe in the harming of animals at the same time I do not want to look at something that portrays a bloody animal it doesn't make any sense to me... it's nasty to look at it brings to your mind that you're eating a bloody piece of meat these companies they don't care and that's probably more in that burger than they say there is you can't believe anything these people say nothing!!!!....

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