Impossible Foods

Making meat obsolete

Stanford biochemist Pat Brown was on sabbatical when he resolved to take on what he calls “the most destructive technology on Earth.” Animal grazing and feed production uses about 80% of the world’s agricultural land and livestock now make up 60% of Earth’s mammals—but Brown concluded that expecting people to quit meat and dairy was unrealistic. So he founded Impossible Foods and engineered a plant-based substitute that uses heme—a component of an oxygen-carrying molecule also present in blood—to replicate the delicious characteristics of beef. “When you bite into it there’s that fattiness that you enjoy from eating a burger, there’s that juiciness, and there’s that crispiness from the seer” chef May Chow—who cooks with Impossible products at her Hong Kong restaurants—told TIME in April. Glowing reviews have propelled the company’s flagship Impossible Burger to an improbable start. A year ago, it was available at 40 U.S. locations; now it’s at more than 3,000 worldwide—from a $30 vegan cheeseburger at Hong Kong’s Grand Hyatt to a $1.99 slider at burger icon White Castle. Impossible is not the only plant-based patty putting down roots: in December, America’s largest meat processor Tyson increased its ownership stake in Impossible rival Beyond Meat, which is also bankrolled by Leonardo DiCaprio. But Brown’s startup received a critical boost in July, when the FDA signed off on the safety of heme—ensuring more juicy vegan “meat” to come. —Joseph Hincks

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