Everything is Possible: Burger King to Test Meatless Whopper

April 2, 2019

Washington Post:

Burger King, whose quarter-pound Whopper pushed its competitors a half-century ago to create their own two-fisted hamburgers, now plans to roll out a vegetarian version of its signature sandwich, relying on plant-based patties developed by San Francisco Bay area start-up Impossible Foods. The Impossible Whopper will be introduced this week at Burger King restaurants in the St. Louis area — in the very state that last year banned the use of the term “meat”for any vegetarian or cell-based substitutes for animal-raised meats.

No, this is not an April Fools’ Day joke. In fact, Burger King’s plan could be the impetus that motivates the highly competitive fast-food burger industry to push for more meat alternatives at a time when beef production has raised countless alarm bells for its contributions to methane production and climate change.

A Burger King spokesman told the New York Times that if the Impossible Whopper succeeds in the Show Me State, the company will expand distribution to all 7,200 restaurants nationwide. Such a move would make the chain the undisputed king of the fake-meat burger. White Castle sells an Impossible Slider at its 370-plus locations. Red Robin has just introduced an Impossible Cheeseburger at its 570 locations, and this year Carl’s Jr. rolled out the Beyond Famous Star, a vegetarian version of its signature burger featuring a plant-based patty from Beyond Meat, at more than 1,000 locations.

But Burger King will have a few difficult tests to pass before deciding to expand the Impossible Whopper to locations across the country. For starters, the veg version will cost nearly a dollar more than the original Whopper, a significant increase in the price-sensitive fast-food market. The Impossible Whopper will also have to deal with consumer skepticism as larger companies move into the meat alternatives market. What’s more, Impossible Foods took heat last year from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for the start-up’s seemingly contradictory stance on animals: Impossible Foods wants to save the lives of countless livestock, but the company simultaneously tests the heme molecule — which is responsible for the “beefy” taste of the vegetarian patty — on laboratory rats.

NPR:

GODOY: Well, there’s, like, growing concern about the environmental toll of meat production, specifically red meat production. And so both of these companies have a report suggesting that the greenhouse gas emissions that they put out are about 87 to 90 percent less from the time they’re made to distributed than it would be with a conventional beef patty.

MARTIN: Wow.

GODOY: Yeah.

MARTIN: So that’s a big difference.

GODOY: It is a big difference.

MARTIN: What’s the price point?

GODOY: So these are expensive. They’re $3 a patty, which translates to about $12 a pound.

MARTIN: Whew.

GODOY: Right. So that’s a lot more than you’re going to pay even for grass-fed, organic, you know, beef at the supermarket.

MARTIN: Right. I imagine there are people who are still developing new kinds of meat substitutes. Right?

GODOY: Yeah. Well, the interesting thing is, it’s not just meat substitutes. There’s actually people who are looking at the molecules that make up things like cow’s milk and trying to make yogurt, like, vegan and vegetarian yogurt that is the tastier and has that texture…

MARTIN: Yeah.

GODOY: …By breaking down the biochemical properties of cow’s milk. And, you know, there’s also people who are using plant-based seafood. There’s actually plant-based tuna out there that’s being sold next to regular tuna pouches…

MARTIN: Really?

GODOY: …In grocery stores. And plant-based crab cakes and fish sticks. And then further out, there’s something called lab-grown meat.

MARTIN: Lab-grown meat?

GODOY: Yeah (laughter). Or, you know, they call it cellular agriculture or clean meat. But, basically, the idea is you’re taking animal tissue and putting it in a bioreactor and feeding it a bunch of nutrients to get meat. And it’s not just red meat. I mean, they’re looking at poultry and fish, too. It sounds very sci fi, but it’s real. The technology has been out there for almost six years, and people are just now trying to work to get it to a scale where it’s affordable. When it first debuted in 2013, a burger cost $330,000 to make.

MARTIN: Wait. What?

GODOY: Yeah. And now they’re trying to get that to a scale where you could buy it one day. I mean, we’re still several years off from that, I think.

MARTIN: Finally, the burgers were ready and it was time to dig in.

(SOUNDBITE OF DISHES CLATTERING)

MARTIN: OK. Here we go.

GODOY: You know, it’s interesting. They both have about 20 grams of protein per patty, which is about the same as a, like, 4-ounce patty of beef. The big difference is…

MARTIN: Protein.

GODOY: Yeah. The big difference is they don’t have any cholesterol.

MARTIN: Now this is good ’cause now we can see the inside of it.

GODOY: Look at that. OK. So that’s the Beyond, and it still has that – let’s see how…

MARTIN: Looks pretty meaty.

GODOY: Let’s see if it’s – if we over or under-cooked it. Ready?

MARTIN: OK.

GODOY: Dig in. Bon appetit.

MARTIN: Needs more salt.

GODOY: Yeah. Needs more salt.

MARTIN: Doesn’t it?

GODOY: But it’s – I could get the meat…

MARTIN: It’s fine. It’s not bad.

GODOY: No. It’s not bad. I wonder if we could’ve made it a little bit – maybe cooked it a little longer. But I don’t know. It’s a little pink inside.

MARTIN: It’s…

GODOY: Even though I like my burgers…

MARTIN: Right.

GODOY: …A little pink. Yeah.

MARTIN: I still can’t get over – like, it’s not a burger.

GODOY: (Laughter).

MARTIN: It’s, like – it’s a fake burger.

GODOY: But it’s not bad. It’s not bad. I would eat it.

MARTIN: No. It is. It’s fine. It’s just, like, visually, I’m still getting my head around it. OK.

GODOY: Let’s try the Impossible.

MARTIN: Let’s try the other one.

GODOY: OK.

MARTIN: What do you think?

GODOY: I like the crispy exterior.

MARTIN: I know.

GODOY: (Laughter). It’s good, right?

MARTIN: We thought we burned it, but I sort of like it.

GODOY: No. I do, too. It’s, like – it adds to the texture.

MARTIN: But I have to say, I don’t even taste the burger.

GODOY: Really?

MARTIN: Yeah. I don’t know. It replicates the burger experience, for sure.

GODOY: Yeah. It does. Doesn’t it?

MARTIN: Mmm hmm.

GODOY: It’s funny, I was going to say we covered it in condiments so you can’t taste the burger. But that’s what my daughter does with, like, burgers.

MARTIN: I know. It’s true. And this one is way, way more realistic. This looks like a burger. When you put all the fixings on it, it totally tastes like a burger. I mean, my kid, who is a connoisseur of hamburgers, I feel like, would eat this burger.

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16 Responses to “Everything is Possible: Burger King to Test Meatless Whopper”

  1. mboli Says:

    The original impossible burger sounds just awful. 4oz has:
    — 580 mg of sodium
    — 14g of saturated fat (17g fat total)
    — loaded with wheat gluten. (Which is not OK for some people, but OK for others)

    I just read in Impossible Foods wikipedia article that impossible burger version 2.0:
    — 370mg sodium
    — 8g saturated fat (14 fat total)
    — soy protein instead of wheat gluten.

    It sounds like I might be tempted to try version 3.0!

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    Let’s see—-Americans consume 50 billion burgers a year and the new burger will coat ~$! more than the old one—-that’s ~$50 billion more a year, an average of over $150 for every American. Do you think we’re willing to pay that price?

    • jimbills Says:

      A few will, and that’s better than none.

      The real question will be if they can get the product to be specifically healthier than a real burger. It has no cholesterol, but it has higher saturated fat, probably due to the use of coconut oil.

      I’d bet more people would buy it for their own health reasons than to save the planet.

      And who knows? Maybe the cost will come down, too.

      I’d put a lot more stock in this tech than lab-grown meat, anyway.

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        It sounds like the perfect candidate for costs to drop as production increases. None of the feedstock materials seem like they’d be hard to scale up to high volumes.

    • SmarterThanYourAverageBear Says:

      Well up north here A&W restaurants have been serving these for a year now and have just added an impossible sausage and egg breakfast muffin – basically the same price as their Teen Burger.

  3. Gingerbaker Says:

    “And so both of these companies have a report suggesting that the greenhouse gas emissions that they put out are about 87 to 90 percent less from the time they’re made to distributed than it would be with a conventional beef patty.”

    Oooooh – the companies that want to make billions of bucks on fake meat are armed with a report! Chock full of truthiness, no doubt, like an Impossible Burger is jam-packed with flavor.

    In the past, I have insinuated that the hyperbole surrounding meat is so overblown and yet so pervasive and persistent that it implies there is a disinformation campaign going on. And where there is a disinformation campaign, there is always a villain laying in the shadows who figures to profit from that campaign.

    Well, it looks like that villain has been identified:

    https://www.sott.net/article/404889-The-twisted-web-of-the-EAT-Lancet-Commissions-controversial-campaign-to-eradicate-meat-consumption

    • jimbills Says:

      You’re using a Seventh Day Adventist news site called ‘Signs of the Times’ to prove a conspiracy against the meat industry?

      Deep breaths, and look up ‘motivated reasoning’ and ‘confirmation bias’. Maybe it will help. Probably not, I know, as I’m a sheeple who believes the ‘propaganda’ that the cattle industry contributes towards global warming, not to the degree of electricity production, but that it’s still a part of global emissions that need to be addressed.

      It’s funny to me that you’re the same guy who thinks climate change can be solved by technology, and yet technology cannot create a vegetarian burger that tastes like meat, or if it does, it’s part of some sort villainous campaign.

      This is just another company that seeks a profit in providing a product with a potential market.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        Don’t be silly – that article was printed in many places and simply picked up by that site. It came up in Google, that’s all.

        Your comment is a textbook example of the ad hominem fallacy. Chew on that.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          I’ve chewed on it and I don’t get your point. Add in “you’re the same guy who —-nuclear power plants” and tell us how anyone is “ad homineming” your confirmation bias and motivated reasoning.

        • jimbills Says:

          Well, link ONE place with that article that is a reliable source – not something from like ‘themeatcouncil.com’ or ‘randomblogger.com’ or ‘thesectthatbroughtusdavidkoresh.com’. Maybe Reuters? No?

          Of course I used an ad hominem attack. But, consider the source. Isn’t a worthy of a dose of skepticism?

  4. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Personally, I’m ready for Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow. With flavor/texture scientists working on it, I’m willing to try foods with proteins sourced from “grub flour” (i.e., processed insect larvae).

    Hell, I eat my own cooking, after all.

  5. jimbills Says:

    This thread has past its due date, but this is a tech that is interesting to me and a positive (and unexpected) thing. I can’t see a potential downside with this one, unlike most tech. Anyway, here’s an honest review I saw on Youtube of the taste of version 1 of this tech, and the product has supposedly been improved with version 2:

    And this guy is a hardcore meat guy (here are some of his other videos):
    https://www.youtube.com/user/sd4547/videos


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