Nick Hankins, MJLST Staffer
Fake meat is getting good, really good. The ImpossibleTM Burger 2.0, developed by Impossible Foods Inc., is a big upgrade from its 1.0 counterpart. The 1.0 has been referred to as a “good replacement for a bad burger” and compared to an “OK Sizzler steak” –not the type of reviews to make turncoats out of meateaters. The 2.0, on the other hand, was hailed as “a triumph of food engineering,” “a burger that could truly wean people off their meat lust,” and (probably most flatteringly) “a well-massaged Kobe ribeye.” Importantly, the latest Impossible Burger has real meat qualities, it can be juicy and red in the middle along with a texture containing small chunks like real beef.
Aside from being an obviously capable meat substitute, the Impossible Burger has the potential to get people to eat less beef and that’s good news because beef isn’t exactly environmentally friendly. In fact, beef is responsible for 41% of livestock greenhouse gas emissions, which account for 14.5% of total global emissions. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report found that changing our diets (including eating less meat) could contribute 20% of the effort necessary to keep global temperatures from risings 2°C above pre-industrial levels. So switching out regular burgers for ImpossibleTM ones might be one step in the right direction toward fighting global warming.
It turns out that not everyone is on board with meat substitution products, like the Impossible Burger. In February of last year, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture calling for official definitions for the terms “beef” and “meat.” USCA argued, in its petition, that “[c]urrent labeling practices may cause consumer confusion in the market place.” However, it doesn’t look like this petition has gone very far. Unlike the U.S., France actually passed legislation that banned foods based largely on non-animal ingredients from being labeled as if they were. Recently, in response to lab grown meat (meat that is synthetically grown and not a vegetable substitution like the Impossible Burger) Terry Goodin, Indiana General Assembly representative, has put together a bill that aims to ensure that lab grown meat makers do not try to sell synthetic meat as the animal-grown original.
Manufacturers of meat alternatives argue that the ability to name their product after its meat analogue is important for branding their products to provide appropriate expectations to consumers. Names for animal product replacements like Soylent and “aquafaba” (a vegetable based egg replacement) simply don’t have the branding power to be super marketable. Considering that last year United States residents were projected to eat a record amount of meat, we might not want to bar meat alternatives from potential branding strategies just yet. In any case, it might not be worth a 20-year naming-rights battle, like the one currently being waged against dairy replacement products.