Since 2016, the Impossible Burger has touted itself as the totally plant-based burger that bleeds. In those two years, the Silicon Valley startup has built a legion of fans who swear it’s the best alternative to red meat — a burger that actually tastes just like a burger, with a fraction of the carbon footprint the beef industry leaves behind.
The secret is heme, a protein found in animal blood. Heme is what gives meat its distinct sizzle and smell, and as Impossible Foods discovered, it’s also abundant in the roots of soy plants. The company genetically engineers heme through fermentation, in a process that has earned lots of attention and some scrutiny. Once the heme is created, it is mixed into a combination of coconut oil, wheat, and potato protein to form the patty. Although it doesn’t contain a single animal product, the Impossible Burger is supposed to sizzle and bleed like beef, thanks to the magical properties of heme.
I was curious to see this bleeding plant patty, but I had my doubts. I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan, and never have been, not even for a month-long trial run. But I have been trying to eat less meat and after hearing a few coworkers rave about the Impossible Burger, I decided to stop by one of the 32 Manhattan restaurants that serves it. I brought those coworkers along to weigh in.