First, Impossible Foods brought you a meatless burger. Now, it’s bringing you meatless pork.
The California-based startup announced that it’s created plant-based pork and offered samples at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Monday. The first taste testers said it tastes much like the real thing.
If it catches on, Impossible Pork could be a consequential leap forward for the plant-based meat movement. Pork is the most consumed meat on the planet, accounting for 36 percent of global meat intake. If Impossible Foods can get us to eat and enjoy a meatless version of it instead, it could help save millions of pigs from suffering on factory farms and curb the impact of pig farming on the environment. It could also improve human health, not least because it’ll help us combat risks like antibiotic resistance.
Conventional meat production is a “ridiculous technology for food,” said Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown at CES, adding that it drives “the two biggest threats humanity has ever faced, which is catastrophic climate change and a catastrophic meltdown in biodiversity.” He said creating successful meat alternatives is “the absolute most important task in the world.”
The offerings at CES gave a sense of the many applications for the new faux pork. There’s Impossible Pork Banh Mi, Impossible Pork Char Siu Buns, Impossible Pork Dan Dan Noodles, Impossible Pork Katsu, and Impossible Pork Sweet, Sour, and Numbing Meatballs.
The key ingredient in Impossible Pork, as in the company’s other fake meat products, is heme, a protein cultivated from soybean roots that mimics the texture of meat. The imitation pork is gluten-free, antibiotic-free, and designed for halal and kosher certification.
Faux pork will probably help Impossible Foods make inroads in Asia, a huge market where pork is extremely popular. It provides a way to guarantee continued access to the beloved meat even when, say, an epidemic hits. Since August 2018, the African swine fever epidemic has killed a quarter of all pigs around the world. China’s herd has shrunk by at least half. On the plus side, surveys have shown that Chinese consumers are very open to meat alternatives, more so than Americans.
We don’t yet know when Impossible Pork will be available for purchase in the US, but in the meantime, there’s another option: Impossible Sausage.
Starting January 13, you’ll be able to find the Impossible Sausage at 139 Burger King restaurants in the following areas: Savannah, Georgia; Lansing, Michigan; Springfield, Illinois; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Montgomery, Alabama. The sausage will be featured as part of the Impossible Croissan’wich, a breakfast sandwich, for a limited time.
If you don’t live in one of these areas, fear not: Here’s a handy chart showing the many restaurants and grocery stores where you can buy meat substitutes from Impossible Foods and its main competitor, Beyond Meat.
Both Impossible and Beyond have sold alt-meat sausages before. Impossible started selling it last year as a pizza topping at select Little Caesars restaurants, while Beyond has been offering its sausage since 2018.
Beyond Meat has also been selling other plant-based meat products such as burgers and chicken in restaurants like Subway, KFC, and Denny’s and grocery stores like Whole Foods. Impossible Foods has snagged major deals with restaurant chains like Burger King, but it was long locked out of the retail market as one of its key ingredients awaited regulatory approval. That approval finally arrived several months ago, and last September Impossible hit select supermarkets.
The rise of meatless meat has been meteorically fast, going in a few years from the niche purview of vegans and vegetarians to mainstream acceptance and even devoted fandom. Three years ago, few people were talking about Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. Now, many foodies see their products as not merely tolerable but actually trendy (although there’s also a backlash against the products, with some critics saying they’re too processed and unhealthy).
Plant-based meat is definitely a growing market, but to put things in perspective, it’s important to note that it still only accounts for 2 percent of retail packaged meat sales. It’s got a long way to go before it can make a big impact on issues like the climate crisis. However, consumers are increasingly seeking out meat alternatives, and there’s good reason to think alt-meat’s market share will keep on climbing.
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