Burgers aren’t sustainable.
One third of the planet’s arable land is devoted to raising livestock, and the methane produced from animal farming is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change.
Enter Silicon Valley.
There are a handful of food startups racing to create the most meat-like plant-based burger replacement imaginable. Companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Burgers are betting on the fact that the demand for beef will one day outpace what’s sustainable to produce, and that today’s veggie burgers aren’t a delicious enough replacement.
Investors seem to agree. Impossible Foods raised $182 million in venture capital since it opened its operations in 2011, including funds from Bill Gates, Google Ventures and Li Ka-shing’s Horizon Ventures from Hong Kong. And Beyond Burgers, which already has products available for sale at select Whole Foods markets, recently added Tyson Foods, the largest meat processor in the U.S., to its list of investors.
Recode visited the Impossible Foods lab in Redwood City, Calif. to try the latest iteration of its burger technology and learn more about how the high-tech patties are made.
Impossible Foods isn’t just putting black beans and tofu in a blender to create a veggie patty. They hired scientists who worked to uncover the exact elements that make beef burgers so delicious, reverse engineering for flavor and texture. It turns out, the main ingredient that gives meat its distinctive meaty flavor is also found in plants.
It’s a blood-like compound called heme, and although it’s more concentrated in meat, the scientists at Impossible Foods have figured out how to isolate it in crops like soybeans and clover. They’re also using coconut oil, which melts like beef fat in a hot pan, and potato protein to give the burger its meaty texture.
Impossible Foods is already served in Nishi, a high-end New York restaurant, and is moving to the left coast this winter, where it will be served in Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles and at Cockscomb and Jardinière in San Francisco. There’s no word yet on when it’ll be available in the grocery store.
Recode spoke with Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown and chef Dominique Crenn at our annual Code Conference earlier this year. Listen or watch the full interview to learn more about their efforts to change the way people think about the future of food.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.