Founded by Patrick O. Brown, M.D., Ph.D., Impossible Foods is a Silicon Valley startup on a mission to make the global food system more sustainable. The fast-growing team includes scientists, engineers, chefs, farmers and foodies. The first product is the Impossible Burger. It tastes great -- and you can feel great about it because the Impossible Burger is made entirely from plants.
How Did the Company Get Started?
We started in 2011 with a simple question: “Why does meat taste like meat?” We spent the next five years researching every aspect of the unique sensory experience of meat, from how it looks raw to how it sizzles and what happens when we sink our teeth into a burger. Then we recreated the precise flavors, textures, aromas, and nutrition of ground beef -- using only plants. By understanding meat at the molecular level, we made a juicy burger that’s delicious, yet nutritious.
Why Do You Make Only Ground Beef?
Our first product to hit the market is the Impossible Burger, but we’re not stopping there. We are already developing other types of meat and dairy. Our team of scientists and food researchers can make chicken, pork, fish or yogurt entirely from plants. We will bring other products to market according to regional food preferences and customer demand worldwide. The Impossible Burger is only the beginning.
What Exactly Is
It Made Of?
The Impossible Burger is made from simple ingredients found in nature, including wheat, coconut oil and potatoes. We add one more special ingredient, called “heme.” Heme contributes to the characteristic color and taste of meat, and it catalyzes all the other flavors when meat is cooked. Heme is exceptionally abundant in animal muscle -- and it’s a basic building block of life in all organisms, including plants. We discovered how to take heme from plants and produce it using fermentation -- similar to the method that’s been used to make Belgian beer for nearly a thousand years. Adding heme to the Impossible Burger makes it a carnivore’s delight.
Full Ingredient List:
Water, Textured Wheat Protein, Coconut Oil, Potato Protein, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Leghemoglobin (soy), Yeast Extract, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Konjac Gum, Xanthan Gum, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Zinc, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.
Do you produce heme by genetic modification?
Yes. We genetically engineer yeast to make a key ingredient: heme. The process allows us to produce the Impossible Burger at scale with the lowest achievable environmental impact.
We start with the gene for a protein called leghemoglobin, a heme protein that is naturally found in the root nodules of soy plants. Leghemoglobin is similar to myoglobin, the heme protein that is exceptionally abundant in animal muscles, binds oxygen and gives meat its unique flavor and aroma, as well as its red or pink color.
We add the soy leghemoglobin gene to a yeast strain, and grow the yeast via fermentation. Then we isolate the leghemoglobin, or heme, from the yeast. We add heme to the Impossible Burger to give it the intense, meaty flavor, aroma and cooking properties of animal meat.
By producing our heme in yeast, we avoid digging up soy plants to harvest the root nodules, which would promote erosion and release carbon stored in the soil. This enables us to produce heme sustainably at high volume and make plant-based meat for millions of people, offsetting the environmental impact of animal agriculture.
Besides the yeast used to make heme, do you use other genetically modified crops?
No. We currently buy soy, wheat and potatoes from certified non-GMO sources.
Is It Vegan?
Impossible Burgers are 100% vegan. They include wheat protein, which means they contain gluten.
Where can I eat the burger?
We're currently serving the Impossible Burger at select restaurants in New York, L.A., Las Vegas, and San Francisco. Go to our ‘Taste It’ page for more info.
Can I buy the Impossible Burger in grocery stores or online?
We are not yet available in grocery stores or for online ordering. We are starting by working with world-class chefs to ensure the best possible experience for our customers. As we ramp up our supply, we intend to be accessible and available widely.
Can I buy the Impossible Burger internationally?
The Impossible Burger is only available in select restaurants in the United States. We are currently focusing on wider availability in the US and will be available internationally in the coming years.
Why is the Impossible Burger not more widely available?
We want to get the Impossible Burger in the hands of as many people as possible, but it takes time to build something new. We are working around the clock to build our production facilities to get you and many others an Impossible burger very soon. Thank you for being patient with us as we grow.
Why Is The Impossible Burger Better For The Planet?
It takes a lot of land, water, food, and time for cows to turn plants into meat. And by basically skipping the biggest step in the plants-to-cows-to-burgers equation, we save a lot of resources. Compared to a burger made from cows, making an Impossible Burger uses about 1/20th the land, 1/4th the water, and produces 1/8th the greenhouse gas emissions.
Where Do Our Environmental Numbers Come From?
We use what’s called a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)—an estimate of a product’s full environmental impact, from raw material to finished product—that allows us to compare it to US beef production. However, because beef production methods vary, so do our estimates.
Our next step is to bring our LCA into compliance with standards from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This year, as we put the finishing touches on our new manufacturing facilities and supply chain, we’re working with our sustainability consulting partners to get this started.
How Good Is The Impossible Burger For Me?
The plant-based Impossible Burger delivers bioavailable protein and iron comparable to conventional beef. It has no cholesterol, hormones or antibiotics.