It’s widely accepted that meat poses a multitude of issues in our society. Meat consumption is linked to health problems like cancer, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Antibiotics and hormones in most of the meat we consume may negatively alter our bodies’ natural balance. On top of that, the meat industry hurts the environment and often mistreats animals. For all these reasons and more, scientists have been working to create alternatives.
Lab-grown or cultured meat, essentially meat grown from animal cells, has been extremely controversial in recent years. In theory, the giant carbon footprint of raising animals would be eliminated because the meat is grown in a lab. However, most lab-grown meat requires fetal bovine serum, a byproduct from the fetus of a cow that requires cows to be slaughtered in order to obtain it. The company Just, formerly known as Hampton Creek, has said that it’s working on a lab-grown “meat” using only plant nutrients, rather than animal products, and that it will release a consumer product in stores by the end of 2018.
Then, there are the plant-based imitation meats. Currently, the two biggest players are Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. They’re both super sustainable and share similar goals and values. Beyond Meat and its signature burger, the Beyond Burger, is plant-based and free of antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, soy and gluten. It’s high in protein, which is derived from peas, and it gets its juiciness and texture from coconut oil and potato starch. Its meaty red color comes from a small amount of beet. Beyond Meat can be found in the grocery store for homecooks to try. Impossible Foods and its signature Impossible Burger is also made of coconut oil and potatoes, but its differentiating ingredient is heme. Heme is a compound that contains iron, so it gives the Impossible Burger a meaty flavor, smell and “bleed.” The Impossible Burger is found at restaurants across the country.