Will Impossible Burgers be the norm for Gen Z?


The Impossible Burger, a vegan burger with heme harvested from soybean roots to look, feel, and taste like beef, as prepared by Hell’s Kitchen in Downtown Minneapolis, MN. Photo via Tony Webster under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

In one of those interchangeable American office parks, where oceans of blacktop pool around lowrise grey-on-grey buildings, a gaggle of kids in white lab coats gathered to apply temporary burger tattoos, conduct mini science experiments, and await the arrival of a radically transformed food system.

The backs of those lab coats were decorated with the initials IF standing for “Impossible Foods,” the eight-year-old startup working to replace all animal meat with its plant-based alternatives.

The kids went from table to table under big white tents in the parking lot behind company headquarters. There was a station where they could try and guess the flavor of jelly beans while wearing nose plugs (it’s almost impossible), and another where they could make little wind turbines out of paper. The vibe was more grade-school science fair than Silicon Valley bacchanal, despite the fact that the company is flush with cash.

Investors are clawing and shoving for the opportunity to throw money at young alternative-meat companies. Impossible just raised $300 million in its fifth time going back to the money well. Another veggie-burger maker, Beyond Meat, saw its stock price increase more than 600 percent since it first went on sale in MayDel Taco, Carl’s Jr., and T.G.I. Friday’s are selling Beyond Meat products, while White Castle, Burger King, and Qdoba are offering Impossible burgers — and the company can’t make enough to keep up with demand. Things seem a little frothy: Is this a faux-meat bubble?

Impossible Foods’ kid-centric event was perfectly crafted to quash fears that America’s enthusiasm for its burgers is just a flash in the pan. The company organized the party to herald a set of survey findings showing that young people are more likely than past generations to seek out meat alternatives. The report attempts to dispel any bubble fears in the very first line: “Plant-based meat is the hottest trend of 2019 — but it isn’t a passing fad.” MORE

Meat and the environment: Do Canadians know what’s at stake?

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Our story last week on the five things that Canada could do to significantly reduce carbon emissions garnered a lot of reader feedback, and one recurring criticism: Why didn’t we mention eating less meat?

First off: Fair point. Meat production is indeed one of the biggest culprits for greenhouse gases. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock accounts for nearly 15 per cent of worldwide emissions. The emissions are produced through a variety of factors, including energy use (which often requires fossil fuels) and methane from the animals themselves.

Derek Gladwin, a fellow of the UBC Sustainability Initiative at the University of British Columbia, said the largest chunk of these emissions — 11 per cent — comes from “unsustainable forms of mass-scale factory farming.” Gladwin said as much as 70 per cent of the Amazon has been deforested for factory-farmed beef.

Mandating that Canadians eat less meat for the good of the planet would be a challenge for any government (likely even more so than getting countrywide buy-in for a carbon tax). Yet the latest version of the Canada Food Guide provided a nudge in that direction, suggesting consumers “choose protein foods that come from plants more often.”

Gladwin said there are “many” challenges when it comes to promoting a more plant-based diet. “The meat industry is one of the largest sectors of the Canadian economy and it retains strong social influence on politics, marketing, media and education more generally.”

He doesn’t think most Canadians grasp the connection between meat production and carbon emissions. That may be so, but there’s no denying that more people are, if not shunning meat outright, looking for alternatives. MORE