Like any other carnivore, I love my burgers. There’s not much that can beat a juicy slab of ground beef on a brioche bun. Personally, I’m a burger purist; you don’t need more than a slice of cheese, a thick patty and a good bun. Toppings like lettuce, tomatoes or frivolous condiments interfere with the flavor of the beef. If you feel the need to add all that extra stuff, you probably have a terrible piece of meat in the first place, and honestly, you should just walk away. Nothing can really compare to a good, juicy cheeseburger. So when I heard that Cornell Dining was offering the Impossible Burger, a 100% plant-based burger that it claimed was “hearty, juicy, satisfying and yes, downright meaty,” I was skeptical. But I’m no narrow-minded fanatic. If someone claims that he or she can see the future of burgers and that it’s meatless, I will investigate these claims, even if it’s just to invalidate them.
The Impossible Burger is available at two locations: the Ivy Room and Trillium. At the Ivy Room, it’s served with lettuce and tomato on a brioche bun with curly fries and a pickle. However, since you are able to choose your toppings at Trillium, that’s where I headed to try it. As I stood in the consistently long grill line, I was entertained by the signs advertising how the Impossible Burger “looks — tastes — and smells like a burger.” This was supplemented by a quick summary of how the Impossible Burger is created. Essentially, Impossible Foods, the company behind the burger, incorporates heme — the molecule primarily responsible for the taste and smell of a burger — into its own plant-based product. Although incredibly abundant in animal muscle fibers, heme is also present in plants. According to their website, Impossible Foods harvests heme from genetically modified yeast, which is what “makes their burger so rich and decadent.”
As I sat down with the burger (with toppings on the side in the case I had to mask the flavor of a fake patty), I noticed that it didn’t smell that identical to a meat burger, which was not a promising point for the Impossible Burger. Before even taking a bite, I felt pretty smug. After taking a few glamour shots with my phone, I dug right into the burger without any toppings. With each passing bite, my resolve wavered. I’m going to be 100% honest with you right now — I never thought I’d eat a meatless patty that tastes as good as a beef one, but that’s exactly what the Impossible Burger accomplished. Don’t get me wrong — it didn’t taste like beef. Although it nailed the texture of beef, its flavor didn’t exactly replicate the unique beefiness of cattle meat, yet it had a thicker crust than a normal beef patty, adding a surprising amount of depth to its flavor. I tried the burger with and without toppings, and I have to say that it tasted way better without any toppings. Like a good meat patty, the Impossible Burger doesn’t need extra toppings to mask weak flavors.
The only downside of the Impossible Burger is its price point, as it costs two dollars more than a regular burger. If the Impossible Burger cost the same as a beef burger, I would buy the Impossible Burger every time. And why would I do that? Because the beef industry has such a damaging impact on the environment. According to a study conducted by the Department of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon, compared to other food products such as vegetables, fruit and beverages, red meat produces much more greenhouse gases. Another study by the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs shows that the production of a kilogram of beef creates 34.6 equivalent kilograms of CO2. Compare this to just 5.46 kilograms of CO2 for a kilogram of chicken. This doesn’t even take into account the ridiculous amounts of methane that cattle farms release into our atmosphere. Nearly 15% of all the greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere come from the Agriculture Sector, according to the World Resources Institute. There’s no denying that beef production significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. If eating a delicious Impossible Burger instead of a beef burger means that I am doing my part in decreasing greenhouse emissions, then I’ll gladly switch over.
With the advent of lab-grown meat and new agricultural processes that reduce waste and methane production, it is unlikely that the future of sustainable food will be meatless. But I’m damn sure that the tasty Impossible Burger will be a part of that greener future.