What It’s Like To Taste Impossible Pork, And Why It Probably Doesn’t Matter

It was only a matter of time until Pat Brown, CEO of trendy food company Impossible Foods, launched one of his iconic rants, full of staggering statistics about the deleterious environmental effects of animal agriculture.

That’s what Brown does in public appearances, and we’re about four minutes into the public Q&A from the company’s CES 2020 event. A member of the public just asked him what inspired him to start a company with the ambitious goal of replacing all animal protein consumed by humans with plant-based meat.

“Can you imagine,” says Brown, “We have less than half the wild animals living on earth today in the entire tree of life than just 40 years ago, simply because of our use of this ridiculous food production technology.”

Brown sits a little forward in his seat on the makeshift stage, raising his hand to drive the point home.

“Nobody likes the fact that meat is made from the corpse of an animal. They don’t like the technology, they just love the product. So if we could just come up with better technology to produce food that offer everything consumers want, we can solve the two greatest threats facing humanity today: catastrophic climate change, and catastrophic biodiversity collapse.”

Brown is on a roll now, leaning in hard, gesturing, his voice growing more urgent.

“Like, are you kidding me? I loved the job I had before, but this is the absolute, most important task in the world.”

Fans in the audience cheer and Brown settles in to answer more mundane questions about scaling up production and target customers, mostly about the company’s new simulated meat products: Impossible Pork and Impossible Sausage, which officially launched at the event – ​​a proverbial fork in the road for a company that has made a name for itself on fake beef.

Why pork?

Brown’s signature rant explains why it’s No. 2 on Impossible’s meat list: Pork is a big deal in the world’s food supply. Although cows receive the most criticism from environmentalists – both for the amount of land consumed and the methane they generate – pork is the No. 1 in animal proteins consumed in the world. In Asia especially, where eating burgers is less culturally relevant, ground pork is used as an ingredient in everything from fried rice to dumplings.

Not that pork is outdone in the rest of the world. The sausage is particularly popular, and Impossible is taking advantage of its existing partnership with Burger King (you may have seen the advertising for the Impossible Whopper) to offer Impossible Sausage as an Impossible Croissan’wich at outlets in five regions – Savannah, Georgia; Lansing, Michigan; Springfield, Ill.; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Montgomery, Alabama – starting in late January.

Tick ​​the Pork brings Impossible closer to fulfilling its mission to reduce and ultimately eliminate the world’s reliance on real meat with simulations so close you can’t even taste the difference. Rachel Konrad, director of communications at Impossible Foods, said the company takes a “worst-first” approach when it comes to which ones to tackle.

“The worst meat production technology in the world is a cow – it’s definitely the worst for animal agriculture. That said, you can’t transform the global food system without addressing China in a meaningful way. And you can’t meaningfully discuss the food chain in China without having a discussion about pork.”

Another reason why we see Impossible Pork before Impossible Fish or Impossible Chicken is because it’s close in texture to beef, which the company has already figured out. To make a pork substitute, the company used the same ingredients as the Impossible Burger, but in different amounts. In particular, heme, the substance that Impossible says gives the meat its flavor, is present — there’s just less of it than in the company’s ersatz beef.

The result: a ground meat product that can be used in virtually any recipe that calls for ground pork, and doesn’t carry the same risks. Undercooking, on the other hand, won’t be as disastrous. There is less than half the fat and zero cholesterol or gluten. Impossible also engineered the meat to qualify for kosher and halal meals, which could be a major blow to the millions of people who belong to religions that reject pork as part of an adherent’s diet.

However, the amount of sodium is considerably higher than in regular pork (the Impossible burger is also saltier than its meat counterpart). Impossible Foods acknowledged the problem in a Average position last month, which essentially dismantled the FDA’s nutritional guidelines on sodium intake. In any case, it’s clearly not below Impossible to fall back on the chef’s old trick of just salting everything to make it taste better.

The Impossible Pork Taste

Whether it’s the salt or not, I can confirm that Impossible Pork tastes like pork. The dishes I tasted at the event (held at the Kumi restaurant at the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas) were all pork dishes prepared in an Asian style – Dan Dan pork noodles, pork dumplings Shumai, sweet and sour pork meatballs, etc. – meaning they were heavily seasoned. That said, I couldn’t detect anything abnormal with the texture and taste of the meat, and every dish tasted delicious to my palate.

But ultimately, taste might not matter as much as you think. With its ambitious mission and incredible word-of-mouth, Impossible Foods has cultivated a veritable fanbase, who share emoji-laden Instagram videos of the company’s soy burgers being grilled on sunny barbecue grills.

And really, how many people care so much about exactly how does minced pork taste? There’s not the same cultural debate about which pork meatballs are better than burgers (it’s Five Guys, by the way). Impossible even describes pork as having “flavorful neutrality”, a culinary low bar if ever there was one. As long as Impossible Pork doesn’t taste bad or weird, it’s probably a win.

In contrast, whole cuts of meat like pork chops have very little flexibility in how they feel and taste. That’s why the pork reveal doesn’t mention Impossible Bacon or chops, and it’ll likely be a while before those arrive, Konrad says.

“Whole cuts that have anatomy that have larger tissues that have very different fat profiles, and are much more difficult, frankly. Our scientists are working very hard on that. But we’re not at the point where we think it would be a viable substitute for meat lovers.”

The company’s stated mission to change global food consumption at scale is undoubtedly a long game, but when projecting, you have to ask yourself, how much time does the company have? It was funded with nearly $700 million and is growing at a rapid pace, now at 600 employees compared to just over 400 just a few months ago. But the fake meat space is hot, with independent rivals like Beyond Meat (which went public in May) and traditional food companies (like Nestlé’s Awesome Burger) vying to define the budding space.

“We don’t see Beyond Meat as a competitor at all, or any company trying to provide an alternative to animals. [agriculture]”, says Konrad. “The only competition we see is the animal itself.”

It’s a predictable public stance, but the company’s marketing and meteoric leap into pork products tell a different story: who can make the most noise and win the most customers in these early days of fake meat will have a say in defining the space. – the 28-ounce rib-eye alongside a plate of sliders. There’s a lot of heat in plant-based cooking, but Impossible Foods’ pork debut shows he still knows how to order the menu.

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