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Healthy Foods

Biochemist creates a veggie burger that 'bleeds'

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The Impossible Cheeseburger made from plants (Impossible Foods)

A Stanford professor has invented a plant-based veggie burger that bleeds like real meat. 

Patrick Brown, biochemist-turned-entrepreneur, has reengineered an iron-containing molecule to get meatless burgers to taste, look and even cook like meat. 

The creation is part of his start-up called Impossible Foods that, according to its website, aims to try and “recreate the wonderfully complex experience of meats and dairy products."

The key to these new products is heme, a molecule found in hemoglobin --the protein found in red blood cells -- but which is also present in the roots of legumes or nitrogen-fixed plants such as alfalfa or peanuts.

Including heme in the new burger recipe allows Brown’s team to recreate beef blood.

“[Heme] is basically 99 percent 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,” Brown explained to the Wall Street Journal.

Impossible Foods is on a mission to change the way people eat. Brown believes the way meat, cheese and other animal byproducts are produced is unsustainable.

“It has terribly destructive environmental consequences and many scientists and doctors believe it’s intrinsically unhealthy to eat meat,” Brown says. But he doesn’t expect people to go meatless just for environment. He knows that whatever they make has to taste to good to impart lasting change.

“We don’t expect the consumer to want to choose our product because it’s better for the world. We have to effectively 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,” Brown told the Journal.

So what does the burger actually taste like?

According to the Journal, it has a “fluffier” consistency than traditional ground meat, and although the granules cling together like animal tissue, the overall result falls somewhere in between a turkey burger and a beef burger.

Impossible Foods is now supported by a team of 50—including scientists, chefs, farmers, and engineers that are working to develop even more sustainable meat-like products.