A startup called Impossible Foods believes it has “cracked the code on fake meat.” The company, founded by Stanford Professor Patrick Brown, has raised millions in venture capital in an attempt to upend the meat industry. What are Brown and his team doing with all that dough?

Impossible Foods is making a plant-based burger that bleeds its own “blood.” The secret sauce to the veggie burgers is the inclusion of heme, a molecule in hemoglobin that is found in high concentration in animals—as well as the roots of any legume or nitrogen-fixing plant. Using heme from plants, Brown and his team are able to recreate cow blood. He explains,

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“[Heme] is basically 99% of the secret to meat flavor. Heme is the molecule that makes meat taste like meat. It’s the reason meat tastes like nothing else. It’s the reason why red meat, which has more heme, tastes meatier to people than white meat.”

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The WSJ‘s Evelyn M. Rusli tasted the Impossible Foods plant-based burger. Rusli writes, “When [the burger] is lifted off the plate, a residue of what looks like ‘blood’ is left, yet another sign that this isn’t your typical veggie burger.” In this WSJ video, Rusli tastes the plant blood on its own, and says it tastes like a diluted form of animal blood. 

Why is Brown so passionate about creating a tasty plant-based burger alternative? He explains,

“The system that we use today to produce meat and cheese is completely unsustainable. It has terribly distructive environmental consequences and many scientists and doctors believe it’s intrinsically unhealthy to eat meat.”

But trying to upend the meat industry—and convince carnivores and burger lovers to eat veggie burgers—is no small task. But Brown knows that for his company’s plant-based burger to really convince meat connoisseurs, it has to look, feel, taste, and sizzle on the grill like a real burger. He says,

“We don’t expect the consumer to want to choose our product because it’s better for the world. We have to affectively reinvent a whole system for producing food—the end result being an unbelievably delicious product that can compete successfully against a product that people have loved for thousands of years.”

Earlier this year, Del Posto chef Brooks Headley started a veggie burger pop-up in NYC. Product development chef for Kaizen Trading Co., Ryan Miller, says he’s going to spend the next couple of years focusing on creating vegan cheeses that are actually good. Chefs everywhere are working to create meat and cheese alternatives that compete with the real deal.

wsjPhoto: WSJ

[via WSJ]