Game over? Burger King unveils meatless Whopper

In case you hadn’t noticed, American society is going to hell in a handbasket. And this time I’m not even talking about politics, the social justice warriors or that Ghostbusters remake. Burger King is throwing in the towel and producing a “meatless Whopper.” It’s true that they’ve been offering a veggie “burger” for a while now just to give the vegans something to eat, but they at least had the decency to call it a veggie burger. But this monstrosity is something different. It’s supposedly magical meat without any meat in it, and it’s going to be called “the Impossible Whopper.”. (LA Times)

Burger King, known for meaty excess like its 1,150-calorie Bacon King sandwich, is now selling a plant-based burger.

The chain, owned by Restaurant Brands International Inc., announced a test run for the burger in 59 restaurants in the St. Louis area. Burger King says the sandwich will use patties from Redwood City, Calif.-based Impossible Foods Inc. The Impossible Whopper is flame-grilled like the regular Whopper and comes with the standard tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles and onion.

Burger King is an early adopter of plant-based meat in the fast-food industry. It already offers veggie patties made by Kellogg Co.’s MorningStar Farms. Impossible Burgers, however, are designed to mimic meat using Impossible Foods’ novel “magic” ingredient, heme, produced with a genetically modified yeast.

So this “burger” (if you want to call it that) is a product of the Impossible Foods company. Most of the pattie is made of some combination of pastes from potato and wheat (try not to start drooling with desire yet). But the secret that makes it “taste and sizzle” like real beef is the magic ingredient “heme.” What’s heme? I’m glad you asked.

If you go to the website for Impossible Foods you’ll find a rather nonspecific definition for heme. It’s supposedly the “essential molecule found in every living plant and animal” that makes meat taste like meat. But rather than getting this molecule from the flesh of tasty animals as God intended, these folks broke out the test tubes and found the same thing in the roots of the soy plant. (Soy leghemoglobin. Yum!) Here comes the science.

We took the DNA from soy plants and inserted it into a genetically engineered yeast. And we ferment this yeast—very similar to the way Belgian beer is made. But instead of producing alcohol, our yeast multiply and produce a lot of heme.

Soy DNA injected into genetically engineered yeast that’s then fermented in a mash pot. Kind of makes you want to fire up the old barbeque just reading the words, doesn’t it? Oh, and just by the way… heme hasn’t even been approved by the FDA yet. If Burger King is going to start trying to pass this off as a hamburger, then I hope somebody will remember to turn out the lights when the last real food aficionados pass out and fade away. In the meantime, you can watch this video from Impossible Foods explaining more about the wonders of heme.