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Impossible Foods: Lowering the Carbon Footprint with Plant-burgers | SSMC

Impossible Foods: Lowering the Carbon Footprint with Plant-burgers

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The founders of local start-up, Impossible Foods, were inspired to make a product that would curb meat-lover’s carbon footprint and improve biodiversity. At a tour of their facility, we learned that over time the planet’s biodiversity has taken a dive as humans and the cattle we harvest represent an increasing amount of terrestrial biomass. In 2016, humans took up 420 million metric tons and cattle, 1 billion tons of biomass, while other animals only represent 90 million tons (Impossible Foods, 2018).

In our 2018 Indicators Report on Climate Change Action, we noted the impact of food choices on greenhouse gas emissions. The graphic below shows the drastic difference in emissions comparing the average diet, a locally sourced diet, a low meat diet, and a plant based diet.

Climate and Food Choices - Final Impossible Foods Test Kitchen 2

Impossible Foods’ offices, lab, and test kitchen are located in Redwood City, CA, while their production facility is in Oakland, CA. Several years of research have produced a food that looks, tastes, and cooks like ground beef, starting pink and becoming brown with heat. The company’s research has found that only 3% of their consumers are vegetarians, which means that they have accomplished their goal of introducing a substitute for beef lovers.

Impossible Foods Test Kitchen 1

Ingredients were chosen because of their low impact on the environment and biological properties that resemble beef as a final product. The Impossible Burger supply chain includes an example of the circular economy[1], as they source potato starch from another food manufacturer who previously discarded it as waste. The company creates one of the vital ingredients, heme, in their lab to reduce the energy, water, and waste that would be required to harvest the same amount of product from plant roots. Based on a life-cycle assessment by a third-party evaluator, Impossible Burgers require 75% less water, 87% fewer GHG emissions, and 95% less land than ground beef production. In 2017, Impossible Foods won Acterra’s Business Environmental Awards for environmental innovation.

Impossible Burgers are on menus across the world, from gourmet restaurants to White Castle and can be eaten locally, at The Counter. Some chefs even serve it raw as beef tartar. In 2019, the company is gearing up to launch a consumer product in grocery stores.

[1] Circular Economy: the reuse and recycling of materials integrated into production material sourcing, product manufacturing, or the maintenance processes.

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