There is almost nothing more American than a hamburger, yet the amount of resources required to raise a single pound of beef is astronomical. Around 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil, and 2,500 gallons of water go into every four Quarter Pounders (to say nothing of the carbon emissions burned off from transporting everything).
That’s why the race is on to create a plant-based “clean meat” alternative that uses the same chemical composition as a traditional burger to yield a similar taste, color, and mouthfeel. And currently, companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are locked in a struggle to scale up. (This approach differs from the standard vegetarian patties derived from beans or corn. Johnny Rocket’s announced such a collaboration with Gardein yesterday.)
Impossible Foods, which is based in Redwood City and which held a ribbon-cutting for a production facility in East Oakland earlier this year, had already announced partnerships with prominent Bay Area chefs such Traci des Jardins (Jardinière) and Chris Cosentino (Cockscomb), as well as New York’s David Chang. But changing the structure of the industrialized food system requires much more than merely whetting haute foodies’ appetites.
So today, Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown and Gott’s Roadside president Clay Walker announced a collaboration with four locations of the buerger-centric Bay Area mini-chain, including the one at San Francisco’s Ferry Building. Barely a week after the SFO location opened, Gott’s will now serve an Impossible Burger with American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and its secret sauce, on a toasted egg bun.
This comes four days after the expansion of another collaborative effort, this time with Umami Burger. The $16 Impossible Burger comes with two patties, caramelized onions, American cheese, miso-mustard, house spread, dill pickles, lettuce, and tomatoes, and, after a trial run at Umami Burger’s Southern California home turf, it’s now available in and around S.F., at the Marina, SoMa, Uptown Oakland, and Palo Alto locations.
The formula for the Impossible Burger hinges on heme. Heme is a basic component of life found in nearly all living things that, when mixed with water and several other veggie-derived compounds, generates the sizzle, aroma, and taste of ordinary feedlot meat. And as Impossible Foods gets more feedback, it continues to refine the exact composition. (See SF Weekly’s December 2016 profile of the Impossible Burger.)
Whether you think of it as the “vegan burger that bleeds” or simply beef without the bovine middleman, it’s a win for the environment — and tastier than lab-grown meat produced by stem-cell cultures.