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Bridge Bytes: Could ‘Meat’ Made from Plants Save the World? Impossible.

12 Sep 10:00 by Ben Taylor

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You would be forgiven for thinking that meat made from plants is an oxymoron to say the very least.

Well, Impossible Foods Inc. is a company hoping to change the way we perceive ‘meat’ products by developing a plant-based alternative that aims to retain the same taste and nutritional benefits of meat. How? By using heme and biotechnology.

Impossible Foods explain on their website, ‘Heme is what makes meat taste like meat. It’s an essential molecule found in every living plant and animal’. Now, Impossible has developed a plant-based heme, using DNA from soy plants and a genetically engineered yeast which they multiply using a process called fermentation, resulting in lots more plant-based heme which they then go on to use to produce their meat-free patties that actually ‘bleed’.

With challenges surrounding our environment becoming increasingly more serious and animal agriculture being described as the most environmentally destructive human activity. Could biotechnology be at least part of the answer in our battle against climate change?

Environmental wellbeing is currently at the forefront of many cultural, business and political agendas, so it comes as no surprise that Impossible alongside other Silicon Valley companies such as Beyond Meat (whose value recently rose to nearly $4bn) have already seen huge success. Regardless of this, we continue to see a rise in global meat consumption.

Dr. Michael Eisen, a scientific advisor for Impossible Foods, explains that providing an appealing alternative to animal meat ‘would dramatically slow global warming and curtail the other negative environmental impacts of animal farming’. His solution? Heme. But in order to get heme you must use genetic engineering, and genetic engineering raises a lot of its own concerns.

However, Dr. Eisen also goes on to argue that ‘Since Impossible Burgers made with leghemoglobin generate 87% less greenhouse gases, require 95% less land and use 75% less water to produce than burgers from cows, it would be grossly irresponsible to the planet and its people not to pursue this path… Impossible Foods is a model for how biotechnology can be used responsibly, for the benefit of the planet and its people.'

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