High-tech, plant-based ‘bleeding’ burgers hit the market

Veggie burgers made from beans or soy have long been available for vegetarians during summertime cookouts, but some companies are now producing meatless burgers that they claim are indistinguishable from beef burgers.

The plant-based burgers are produced by companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, who claim they taste, look and cook just like beef burgers. Comprising mostly wheat and potato proteins, the burgers have seen positive reviews, with many meat eaters saying they could hardly tell the difference between the vegetarian burgers and real beef.

What makes the burgers seem so real? A lot of hard science went into formulating the recipes.

An iron-containing molecule called heme, which carries oxygen in blood, is thought to provide the taste behind meat. The creators of the burgers use yeast, which contains heme, to give their products the pink color and meaty taste they were looking for. The yeast is cultivated in large vats stored in production facilities. Solidified coconut oil creates the effect of fat when it melts during cooking. Beet juice is used to create a bleeding effect when the raw “meat” is thrown onto the grill.

Producers are aiming to create viable options for feeding more people more efficiently as the global population soars. But to some, it seems unlikely that people will ever entirely give up real meat.

“I don’t think you’re going to get people to convert over and give up meat completely,” food analyst Jeffrey Lansman told NPR. “As long as animal proteins are available at a reasonable price, people will not fully replace their meat with a plant-based alternative.”

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