Big business is getting behind non-slaughtered meat
WHEN Silicon Valley start-up Impossible Foods created the Impossible Burger, it was as part of their mission to change the world.
Now a partnership with Air New Zealand is bringing their plans of instigating a global food revolution one step closer to reality.
Based just outside San Francisco, only a short drive from the headquarters of Google and Facebook, Impossible Foods has raised over $US450 million to find the solution to what they say is the most significant contributor to our planet's growing environmental crisis: the over-reliance on farmed meat production.
The first product to emerge from these ambitiously chartered laboratories is the Impossible Burger, a revolutionary patty made entirely from plant-based ingredients that is purported to not only taste, but cook, smell, look and even bleed like beef.
"We break food down to the sensory level to see how we can duplicate those experiences," says Impossible's Director of Research, Celeste Holz-Schietinger.
Solving the greatest of our environmental challenges will come down to convincing people to eat less meat says founder of Impossible Foods, biochemist Dr Patrick Brown.
"We need to make food that consumers prefer. Basically, the only way to solve the problem is to not only produce foods that have a lower environmental impact but do a better job of delivering what consumers want. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are 'deliciousness'."
The secret? Heme: the molecule that gives meat its colour, its reaction to heat and its umami-rich flavour. Impossible have discovered the same molecule - an atom-for-atom twin - in the roots of soy plants. This discovery was the key to unlocking their astoundingly accurate meat reproduction.
As for its impact on the environment, Impossible says their product uses approximately one-twentieth of the land, a quarter of the water and produces only an eighth of the greenhouse gas emissions as beef.
For more than two years the resulting Impossible Burger has been available in select areas of the United States, including David Chang's Momofuku restaurants, San Francisco's Umami Burger and, recently, as a slider at White Castle.
In Hong Kong, where several of the project's key investors are located, Impossible's signature meat can be found in dumplings, bao and, of course, burgers.
This week, Air New Zealand has announced that until the end of October, the Impossible Burger will be offered to Business Premium customers on all flights from Los Angeles to Auckland.
It marks the first time the meat-free burger has been available outside the USA and Hong Kong, and is the most geographically friendly opportunity Australians have had to experience it.
Air New Zealand's Customer Experience Manager Niki Chave says showcasing the burger in an in-flight environment required its own significant research and testing.
"We're the first airline to offer the Impossible Burger, so we needed to make sure it flies well and is presented well."
"It's been stress tested in the air for all sorts of scenarios to ensure it will hold up if meal service is delayed due to turbulence, or if there's any other reason the burgers stay in the oven two, five or 10 minutes later than they should."
The airline's version of the Impossible Burger, presented with two patties, smoked gouda, tomatillo cream and caramelised onions, replaces the burger that has sat on the business class menu for years.
Impossible Foods has already begun researching the possibilities for their own meat-free chicken, pork, fish, eggs and milk, but we'll probably have to wait a few more years before trying those.
Tristan Lutze was a guest of Air New Zealand