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Biotech

A Fresh Take On Fake Meat 317

JMarshall writes: Impossible Foods, a Silicon Valley food start-up started by a Stanford professor who quit his job, just raised $108 million to pursue a plant-based burger that truly tastes like meat. This ACS article explains how Impossible Foods and other startups and researchers are tackling the tricky chemical and engineering challenge of making fake meat that tastes real. "Meat flavors and aromas come from thousands of volatile small molecules released by muscle and fat cell destruction. Flavor precursors start with an animal’s diet, which influences the molecular composition of its cells. After slaughter, enzymes in an animal’s muscle cells begin breaking down biomolecules into simpler amino acids, sugars, and fatty acids. This means some flavor molecules develop even as the meat ages during its trip to the store. Other flavor and aroma components emerge from reactions between sugars, amino acids, or fatty acids as the meat is cooked."
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A Fresh Take On Fake Meat

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  • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @04:56PM (#50729797) Homepage
    In short, they're reinventing the Tofu burger.
    • by tchdab1 ( 164848 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @05:22PM (#50730189) Homepage

      Are people who are concerned about what they eat going to embrace a chemical s**t storm just because it's meatless?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by creimer ( 824291 )

        It's for people who want the THIS IS HEALTHY label on the box, who aren't going to check the ingredient list to verify that its healthy, and think what they're eating is healthy. IAfter all, the label can't be wrong.

      • by Your.Master ( 1088569 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @05:59PM (#50730645)

        They will if they are the sort who abstain from meat due to ethical considerations (the "fish are friends, not food" crowd). Your chemic shitstorm isn't alive so there's no ethical debate about eating them.

        Also normal people who don't give two shits will eat it. I eat normal meat but if this tasted like real meat, and wasn't substantially less healthy or more costly, I'd eat it for sure.

        If it comes even close in price I can see restaurants choosing it because then they don't have to have separate vegetarian and vegan menu options.

        • by pubwvj ( 1045960 )

          The problem is it will turn out to be bad for you. Factory produced problems.

          Me, I'll stick with pasture raised, naturally grown meats. They are a nicely integrated part of our vegetable and fruit farming too. It's a system that works. Permaculture.

        • by mjwx ( 966435 )

          They will if they are the sort who abstain from meat due to ethical considerations (the "fish are friends, not food" crowd). Your chemic shitstorm isn't alive so there's no ethical debate about eating them.

          The probelm is that the "fish are friends" crowd are also the "chemicals are bad m'kay" crowd. They eat organic, fair trade, ethically cultivated, save the whales vegan because everything else is factory farmed, chemical laden, horse meat infected rubbish that give them the cancers and the autisms. They also like to ignore the fact their organic cucumber is just a normal cucumber that has had the price jacked up on it.

          Put simply, they have an irrational fear of non-descript chemicals (not anything specif

          • by Your.Master ( 1088569 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @11:48PM (#50732965)

            You're being unfair and unnecessarily polarizing. Just because you've met people who have both beliefs doesn't mean they always go together. People aren't always either right about everything or wrong about everything.

            I'm not convinced there's any correlation at all, though there could be. As anecdotal evidence, at the time of writing there are four responses to my post. Two of them are explicitly meat eaters who are making the "chemicals are bad" argument and both precluding any possibility they are wrong. Clearly none of them are vegans.

            I've also met lots of vegetarians and vegans, and literally none of them have irrational fears of chemicals in foods (they have rational fears of things that actually cause food poisoning and such). The only time I've seen those two beliefs together are in stereotypes.

            In fact, the person I know who is most irrational about food is almost a complete carnivore. He's all-in on his keto diet. He lost like 150 lbs when he switched to basically only ever eating sausages, and from that he's drawn the conclusion that a co-worker of ours could cure her Multiple Sclerosis by cutting the grains and veggies out of her diet. Second place goes to a vegetarian who was pretty convinced that ancient humans never hunted for meat.

      • If they're avoiding meat for ethical reasons, sure. If they're doing it for health reasons, probably not.
        • Lots of people do it for Religious reasons, for instance, Adventists.

          I once dated an Adventist girl who lived in Loma Linda, CA, which has a very high population of Adventists. I was amazed when I first walked into her local grocery store - there was aisle after aisle after aisle of stuff pretending to be meat.

          It was bizarre.

      • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

        Are people who are concerned about what they eat going to embrace a chemical s**t storm just because it's meatless?

        I'm sorry to have to be the one to break it to you, but everything you eat -- and drink -- is a chemical shitstorm.

        "Foods. Chemistry." That's like saying "Oceans. Water." No, wait. It's actually like saying "Oceans. Chemistry." :)

        • by fisted ( 2295862 )

          No shit, sherlock.

          • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

            So, what exactly in my post are you objecting to, or denigrating?

            Just curious.

            I wasn't the one who described one food as a "chemical shitstorm" with the implication that other foods aren't also "chemical shitstorms." That was tachdab1

            • They *obviously* meant "artificial", or "processed", of which some people have illogical paranoia.

      • There are some people that are vegan but also conflate that with non-GMO, or chakras, or some other fucked up shit. I'm vegan, so my only concern is "is this made from animals?"

        If not, it goes in my belly.

        The answer to your next question is "because I like burgers, but meat is made from factory-farmed tortured animals. The standards for slaughterhouses and human consumption are so low that you're actually eating literal shit, and probably pus from a cow's tumour. Yes, really. Plus, factory farming is th

      • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
        Everything you eat, and everything you are, is 'chemicals'. Don't fall for the naturalistic fallacy. The animals we eat aren't even 'natural'.
    • by jcr ( 53032 )

      Yeah, pretty much. I'm just glad that this isn't a tax-funded boondoggle. Let the tree-hugging hippies waste their own money on this shit.

      -jcr

    • Since when does a tofu burger "taste real"?

  • Why not eat meat? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grimmjeeper ( 2301232 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @05:02PM (#50729889) Homepage

    Our bodies evolved over millions of years to eat meat. The fact that your senses crave the smells, taste, and texture of meat means... your body wants meat. Now, we all know that you should eat it in moderation because of the problems of overeating. But meat in reasonable portions is naturally good for you.

    All of this biochemical engineering to come up with a meat substitute is reminiscent of all the chemical companies trying to come up with artificial sweeteners. The end result is probably as bad for you or worse than the original.

    Eat your meat. That way you can have your pudding.

    • Re:Why not eat meat? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @05:15PM (#50730107)

      Depends on the professor I guess... Could be just to cash in on the vegetarian / vegan / health market like everybody else seems to be doing. Could also be a 'think of the future' thing. Meat produced from grazing animals (e.g.: beef) is pretty inefficient to raise for our tables. As the worlds population grows we might need to start thinking about alternatives to satiate our bellies. In the future you have an alternative to that beef flavored partially refined locust protein burger everybody has been talking about if the professor is successful :)

    • How about fake vegetables made from meat? We can convert those vegans!
    • Re:Why not eat meat? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ohnocitizen ( 1951674 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @05:39PM (#50730389)
      There's a few reasons, and people might find all or just some of them convincing.

      I eat (and enjoy) meat myself, but if there's a way to get that texture and flavor (texture is the most important part, I think) in a healthier and more sustainable way - I'd love to see it happen so long as the final result is actually more efficient to produce and healthier to eat. As you say, many artificial foods have ended up being worse than what they were meant to replace.

    • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @05:44PM (#50730443)
      Our bodies evolved over millions of years to crave the smell, taste, and texture of COOKED meat? Not sure where our ancestors found that in the wild...
      I subscribe to an evolutionary theory of nutrition, which says that we do best if we eat what our ancestors ate for tens of thousands of years. We were designed to eat meat, but because we didn't have refrigeration, we didn't eat meat very often. Gorging on red meat a couple times a month should be fine; eating it for every meal, not so much.
      • by grimmjeeper ( 2301232 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @05:47PM (#50730477) Homepage
        Our ancestors were using fire to cook meat long before recorded history.
      • Our bodies evolved over millions of years to crave the smell, taste, and texture of COOKED meat?

        Not millions, but easily tens of thousands. Which is enough to to develop an aversion or affinity to a certain kind of smell.

        Try this test. Take a chunk of raw beef, slice it in half and cook one of them on an open fire (in an appetizing way so that you'd wanna eat it... don't burn it). Leave the other half raw. Present both halves to a dog and see which one it goes for first. Now repeat this test on a tiger or some other non-domesticated carnivore.

        I'll bet you the dog goes for the cooked meat and the tiger

        • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @06:22PM (#50730877)

          The dog will go for whichever one is closer and then try to eat the second one, at least judging by all the dogs I've known. Dogs are not as particular as you imply.

        • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @07:11PM (#50731301)

          Try this test. Take a chunk of raw beef, slice it in half and cook one of them on an open fire (in an appetizing way so that you'd wanna eat it... don't burn it). Leave the other half raw. Present both halves to a dog and see which one it goes for first. Now repeat this test on a tiger or some other non-domesticated carnivore.

          Ok, I tried this experiment. I ate the dog, and then I ate the tiger.

          What do I do now . . . ?

          Please advise.

    • Speak for yourself please. My body doesn't crave meat and i don't particularly like the taste of many meats, especially beef. I would take good cheese or nice rye bread or vegetables over meat any day. But meat is often cheaper, otherwise i'd probably eat meat once a week or so.

      • I'm sure some people can condition themselves to suppress their cravings. And if you want to live that way, go right ahead. But eating meat is an instinct inherited through evolution.
        • by joh ( 27088 )

          I'm sure some people can condition themselves to suppress their cravings. And if you want to live that way, go right ahead. But eating meat is an instinct inherited through evolution.

          Statistically, as a tendency, yes. Categorically, for everyone, no. I know people who never liked meat. They just don't crave meat.

          People are generally common, but they're not just all the same.

    • Humans, like our primate relatives, do eat non-vegetable matter. Moreover, there is a case to be made that it is through our discovery of FIRE that our success as a species really started to take off, because while other animals consume their nutrition raw, the act of cooking one's food to break down plant and animal matter enabled the human digestive system to be simpler and less energy-consuming. We essentially offloaded a good part of the function of digestion into cooking, and this is what allowed us

    • Eat meat. Celebrate life at the top of the food chain!
    • But meat in reasonable portions is naturally good for you.

      Oh, I agree. However, I also recognize that eating meat is a little hard on the animal that supplied it, at least the way we're doing it now, which is to say, we're killing them.

      While I would welcome a veggie burger that actually tasted like meat, I'm feeling dubious that it actually does. Until it does, I put my charitable donations towards development of tech that may be able to (eventually) provide meat raised without a host animal. The tech is n

  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @05:03PM (#50729905) Journal

    I've been eating fake meat in various forms since the late seventies. It's mostly a matter of convenience, so I can partake in events like barbecues as a vegetarian. Fake meat patties and cutlets and so forth have various flavors and textures, none of which taste like real meat. (at least, as far as I can remember) But is it necessarily bad that they have their own taste? If the taste and texture are pleasing, (some are, and some are not) does it really matter if it tastes nutty or tofu-y and not meaty? I guess what I'm asking is, what problem are we trying to solve here?

    I have a friend who is a vegetarian chef, and she says if you're trying to be vegetarian but only eat products that ape the food you don't eat anymore, what's the point?

    • Some vegetarians don't eat meat because they don't like it but for many that isn't the reason. They like the way meat tastes but they refuse to eat it for a variety of other reasons. It might be moral (they don't like animals being slaughtered for food), due to health concerns (meat is often said to be bad for you, although this is generally not true if you eat it in moderation), or because meat production is horrendously inefficient (usually out of some concern for the those starving in poor countries, eve

      • The only non-pretentious dietary vegan (she still buys and wears leather, etc) I know switched in an effort for her and her husband to get off cholesterol meds. It has worked for them, but yeah, they eat a lot of "replacement meat-like products". As was said upthread, why bother if you are just going to eat stuff that (poorly) imitates what you no longer eat by choice?

        One other NPV (who is no longer vegan, or even vegetarian - back to omnivore-hood!) I know did it to become more conscious of the world aro

        • he said that if he hit a deer with his car he'd happily take it home and eat it - he had already interacted with it

          Please post a link to the tube of "him" . . . "interacting" with a deer.

          • He didn't... But I was querying him about his choice for vegan-ism.

            Beer? Yah, yeast don't count.

            What about your leather jacket, etc? It was before this "experience" and the effect of him purchasing it had already rippled out, no longer a concern.

            "Well, what if you hit a deer on your way home from work?"

            "If it were dead or totally disabled I'd cut its throat, bleed it out, and grill it up - no use in wasting. It isn't *my* choice to hit the deer - rather, it is the deer's choice to jump the road in front o

    • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

      I have a friend who is a vegetarian chef, and she says if you're trying to be vegetarian but only eat products that ape the food you don't eat anymore, what's the point?

      The point is that I'm not trying to be vegetarian, yet some vegetarians and most climate change activists are screaming that raising livestock for meat is a horrendous generator of methane and CO2, a tremendously poor use of land and water resources, and ethically suspect.

      Despite all this, ham and beef are very tasty.

      So forgive those who bel

    • Well as an omnivore, if I buy a vegie burger to cook on a barbecue I'm expecting it to taste of caramelized chickpeas and exotic herbs and spices of the Levant.

      It would be a disappointment, personally, if it tasted of beef.

      • Well as an omnivore, if I buy a vegie burger to cook on a barbecue I'm expecting it to taste of caramelized chickpeas and exotic herbs and spices of the Levant.

        It would be a disappointment, personally, if it tasted of beef.

        Yes, exactly my point. Even speaking as a vegetarian, I figure if you want to taste beef, eat beef.

        I still miss bacon, though.

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      I guess what I'm asking is, what problem are we trying to solve here?

      We've got a lot of people out there who really like to eat meat, and aren't likely to give it up anytime soon. To meet their demand, we've got a meat industry that is inefficient, unhygienic, environmentally harmful, and cruel to animals.

      If (and it's a big if) someone can come up with a meat substitute that is sufficiently similar to the real thing, and cheaper to produce and to buy, then the problematic meat industry will likely shrink down into a much-less-problematic niche/specialty market for foodies.

  • Alternate plan (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blue9steel ( 2758287 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @05:11PM (#50730047)
    Why not just genetically engineer plants that grow meat, that way you get the best of both, flavor and saving the fuzzy animals. I look forward to sampling the bacon bush and porterhouse tree.
  • by Twinbee ( 767046 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @05:16PM (#50730117) Homepage
    Fake 'meat' made from ingredients such as quorn, soya or veg is no panacea, but after getting used to Quorn mince, minced beef now tastes a little, erm 'metallic', or at least strange in some way. For those who don't like the taste of liver, it's a little like that, though less extreme.

    I don't want to have the taste of meat. Nor do I want the slightly cardboardy taste of current "veg meat" foods (though it is improving).

    Instead, I want something which combines the best aspects of the flavours of both real meat and fake meat.

    Only fake meat can even attempt to reach that solution, or at least can offer a far bigger variety of flavours than real meat could hope to offer.
  • Or is it the texture? I'm an omnivore who tends towards vegetarian most days, but when I find that I have a craving for meat, it's not the taste that matters, it's the texture. I have yet to find any non-meat meal that has the same sort of tearing/chewing goodness that a good meat dish has. I can satisfy umami cravings with other dishes, but there's something about that feeling that's hard to satisfy without the going for animal protein.
    • How about fish? Yes, it's kind of meat and it's in the animal kingdom, but there are plenty of reasons to eat fish over other kinds of meat. You also get a pretty good meaty texture, although it varies quite a lot between species.
      • Fish is fine. My complaint is that while many items have simulated the same flavor, the texture is off. Consuming food engages every sense. You can hope to match the flavor, but if the feel is off, the experience is off. For instance, we have excellent vegan sausages out here, flavor wise, but the vegan items will never be as moist or have wonderful flow of juices when breaking through that "skin." It's those moments that define the food. Without them, it's not as memorable.

        My issues aren't moral
  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @06:47PM (#50731109) Homepage Journal
    Does their fake meat have really complete protein (not missing or deficient in any essential amino acids) or is it just the typical vegetarian junk that's incomplete in one way or another? Taste is not important; nutrition is. If it's protein is not as complete as the meat they're trying to replace, then it's useless.
  • by bughunter ( 10093 ) <bughunter@NOSPaM.earthlink.net> on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @07:27PM (#50731425) Journal

    Why even try to mimic meat? It struck me the first time I walked into a grocery in an Adventist community - there were multiple aisles of highly processed vegetable/fungus/grain matter trying to resemble meat.

    I mean, especially if you're living a totally meatless lifestyle, why even kowtow to the omnivore food culture?

    For example, look at Middle Eastern cuisine. Sure, they have kabobs, etc, but things like Falafel, Faul, Hummus, Baba Ghanouj, Tabouleh and Dolmas are all fantastic, and none of them are trying to mimic a hunk of beef or chicken.

    Same with Asian food. There are fantastic meatless dishes that don't try to resemble an animal part.

    Why do we do it in the West? Marketing?

    • This. A lot of people are vegetarians for ethical reasons (e.g. sustainability and energy conservation, not just tree hugging and cute animals). They don't need constant reminders of the negative associations they have with meat. They also don't believe that meat is the one true food that other foods should emulate.

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