Hamburger of vegetable meat Yes or no? The discussion is more lively than ever, given that between the first tastings and the current diffusion many words – and lavish meals – have been spent on the subject. There are those who are in favor for reasons of environmental sustainability, by focusing heavily on reducing the impact that farms generate globally, there are also those who are against it, worried about food safety that this type of food can guarantee. Disputes that in the United States have ended up in court, and which expressly concern one of the suppliers of meat-that-is-not-meat-but-that-tastes-of-meat: Impossible Foods.
Unlike Beyond Meat, the company based in Redwood City (in California, Beyond Meat is also Californian but from Los Angeles) uses the soy leghemoglobin, biotech eme that gives the burger that sense of meat which makes it almost indistinguishable from the hamburger traditional. Not only on the palate, but also on the eye there are no substantial differences, since the GMO substance returns that reddish color typical of rare meat.
Well, the Center for Food Safety has tried – unsuccessfully – to block its sale, deeming leghemoglobin unsafe for human health. An attempt was made to overturn the decision of the US Food and Drug Administration, which previously gave the green light to its commercialization, but failed to do so. In other words, the additive can continue to be used, and Impossible Foods will have full power to sell its products enriched of heme. A not insignificant result, considering that that of vegetable meat is a rapidly growing business: data reported by Bloomberg refer to a turnover that by 2040 will reach 450 billion dollars, a quarter of the entire meat market.
Soy leghemoglobin was invented by Pat Brown and was introduced into the food sold by Impossible Foods after passing several laboratory tests that proved its food safety and non-correlation with allergies. The company turned to the FDA to get the go-ahead for marketing, in order to officially sanction its quality and be allowed to sell the products that use it in the US and other countries. Not in the European Union, however, where the main antagonist is successfully operating: Beyond Meat. In this case, heme is not used, but only protein extracted from peas and soy which allow food to taste like meat. And the luscious red? Beetroot extract, nothing GMO. Maybe Beyond Meat’s burger is less flavorful than Impossible Foods burger – so they say – but its better simplicity (from a legal point of view, at least) has given a strong impetus to its diffusion, so much so that the agreements signed with food & beverage giants such as Pepsi and McDonald’s are recent.