Exactly one week after Bay Area food tech tech startup Memphis Meats unveiled the world’s first lab-grown chicken finger, we as a society have become a single step closer to a reality in which producers of “clean meat” are able to compete on equal footing with the behemoths of modern industrial meat.
Just yesterday, Impossible Foods, the Redwood City, California startup, announced that it had almost finished construction on a huge factory in Oakland, California that will be able to produce one million pounds of veggie burgers per month. The company’s Impossible Burger—known as the “veggie burger that bleeds”—will be mass produced there; commercial production is planned to begin early this summer.
Founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, Patrick Brown, who was formerly a professor of biochemistry at Stanford University, has big plans for his meatless burgers: “We’ll probably be within an hour’s drive of most of the US population by the end of the year,” he said. “We’re dead serious about our mission. That means any food product that currently is produced using animals, we intend to create a product that can compete.” He says he founded the company back in 2011 because he had concerns about the impact of meat production on the environment.
READ MORE: The World’s First Lab-Grown Chicken Finger Was Just Unveiled
The Impossible Burger has received high marks for its taste; many have said it comes close to providing the experience of biting into a meaty burger. Initial tastings were held at high-end restaurants in New York and California, including David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi and Traci Des Jardins’ Jardiniere. The company says its burgers’ real-meat flavor comes from something known as “heme,” which is made by genetically modifying yeast cells. Heme is said to provide the bloody appearance of real meat, as well as a metallic taste, that lentils, tofu, or beets—the basis of other veggie burgers—just can’t mimic. The other ingredients in the Impossible Burger are wheat and potato protein and chips made from coconut oil.
The company has finally responded to the single largest source of skepticism looming over the panoply of meat-alternative companies that have popped up in recent years: scaling production to meaningfully compete with traditional meat processors.
A spokesperson for Impossible Foods provided the following statement to MUNCHIES: “Impossible Foods is in the process of building out a 67,000 square foot facility in Oakland to service an expected 1,000 restaurants by the end of the year. The company plans to be in locations across the country as quickly as possible, ranging from Michelin starred restaurants like Public in New York to better burger chains and stand alone eateries such as Oakland’s KronnerBurger.”
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According to startup database Crunchbase, Impossible Foods has so far raised a total of $182 million in equity funding for a total of 8 investors, including Bill Gates and Silicon Valley venture capital firms like Khosla Ventures and Google Ventures. The new facility will allow Impossible Foods to increase production more than 250 times.
One day in the near future, you might even be able to take a tour of the facility where the world’s first “veggie burgers that bleed” are made. “One of the things we’d like to be—and the bar is very low—is the most transparent, tour-friendly meat-production facility on Earth,” Brown said this week at the factory’s opening ceremony.
Definitely sounds a lot better than touring a meat processing plant, in our humble opinion.