When critics levy the charge that Impossible Foods doesn’t produce health food, they’re right—in a way.
The company’s vice president of sales, Dana Worth, agrees that an Impossible Burger isn’t health food. At least, not as what most people consider health food.
He shared Impossible Food’s mission and vision this morning, February 8, on BalancingACK, a Nantucket NPR show hosted by Joanna Roche.
Worth doesn’t recommend replacing salads or other vegetable-heavy, nutrient-dense dishes with an Impossible Whopper. In that sense, no—the company isn’t in the health food business.
But the VP certainly believes Impossible is addressing the health of our planet.
“I’m a meat eater—I eat meat,” said Worth. “But I don’t like how meat is produced.”
That’s because huge amounts of land and water are used to make meat products, and billions of animals are slaughtered each year. Roughly half of the habitable land on Earth is dedicated to agriculture. Nearly 80 percent of that agricultural land is dedicated to either raising livestock or growing food to feed those animals.
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When the topics of pollution, carbon footprint and the environment come up in discussion, people tend to point their fingers at SUV drivers and airplanes. Worth and Impossible Foods choose the path of making an impact through our food supply.
“Not many people think about how the way they eat impacts the environment,” said Worth.
One of Impossible Foods’ major goals is removing all animal products by 2035. Not just beef, not just pork (Impossible Pork debuted at CES this year and is already being sold at Burger King in select markets), all animals.
“We’re always working on the next animal,” said Worth of Impossible’s efforts to achieve their big goal within the next 15 years. He said they “absolutely need to” create Impossible Chicken.
So, if they’re not a health food per se, how can the company replace all animal products yet ensure people receive the nutrients they require?
Worth claimed on BalancingACK that if a person subbed out their beef consumption with an Impossible Burger, they wouldn’t miss key nutrients. The food has roughly the same amounts of calories, protein, and overall fat as a traditional beef burger. Protein comes from soy and potatoes, fat is mimicked by coconut and sunflower oils, heme gives Impossible Burgers their beef flavor.
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During his interview, Worth conceded that Impossible Burgers have more saturated fat from coconut oil, which is used to replicate the fat content of beef for mouthfeel and texture. Coconut oil, like soy, is both hero and villain depending on the source, so consumers will need to do their research and decide what’s best for them.
Because it’s a plant-based food free of animal products, there’s zero cholesterol—animal-free foods are cholesterol-free by their very nature. There is more sodium in an Impossible Burger than in a beef burger, something the company is hoping to reduce in their next round of production, according to Worth. When asked by Roche if Impossible Burgers use preservatives, Worth responded that the company uses shelf-stabilizers (cultured dextrose on the ingredient label).
Worth also addressed the claim by Moms Across America that Impossible Burgers are “tainted” with “up to 11X higher levels of glyphosate residues than the Beyond Meat Burger.” According to Worth, the data the group used to support their claim used math that “was off by powers of ten.”
Like all brands that experience explosive growth, Impossible Foods has diehard fans and rabid detractors
Their burger launched in mid-2016 and achieved mainstream success by August 2019. We won’t know if Impossible Foods will attain their goal of removing all animal products from the food supply for fifteen years.
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What we do know is that they’ve achieved some of their goals aleady. The brand’s burgers received support from David Chang of Momofuku. Burger King has embraced the Impossible Burger and is testing Impossible Pork. Impossible Foods were served at Super Bowl LIV. Valued at $2 billion in May 2019, Impossible, it’s clear that a significant percentage of consumers want sustainable, plant-based meat alternatives and are willing to pay for them.