For a limited time, you can ask Burger King to “hold the beef” in your Whopper.
Earlier this month, the fast food chain rolled out the “Impossible Whopper”- a version of its classic sandwich made with a plant-based Impossible Burger- to all 7,000 of its locations.
The Impossible Burger is designed to mimic the taste and feel of beef, sans cattle. It’s made with soy and potato protein.
Companies like Impossible Foods (the makers of the Impossible Burger) and Beyond Meat are taking a different approach in their creation of plant-based meat substitutes, Mark O’Brian, PhD, professor of biochemistry at UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences said.
“They recognize that people like meat- they like the way it looks, tastes, smells, so they’re really trying to accommodate that market,” O’Brian said.
O’Brian is the author of a paper called “What Makes the Impossible Burger Look and Taste Like Real Beef?”
In the paper, he explains that a protein from soybeans called leghemoglobin helps the Impossible Burger to mimic the taste, feel, and smell of meat.
Can the Impossible Whopper really stack up to the classic?
The News 4 Digital Team was willing to test drive the sandwiches.
Digital producer Troy Licastro, who said he normally doesn’t get much more adventurous than a turkey burger, said he couldn’t tell the difference.
“If it didn’t have the Impossible Burger wrapper and you didn’t tell me, I wouldn’t know.
Digital producer Evan Anstey said that it tasted a lot like a Whopper, although slightly drier and with a slight chicken taste.
“It still tastes a lot like a Whopper,” he said.
Digital manager Zach Smalt, who said he enjoys meat substitutes like Morning Star patties, said that it’s comparable.
While the Impossible Burger is vegan, the preparation of the Impossible Whopper is not. It’s cooked on the same flame-grilled broiler as chicken and beef sandwiches, so you can ask for it prepared separately and without mayonnaise if you’re vegan.
It also stacks up to the original Whopper in calories- 630 vs. 660. It has 34 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, and 25 grams of protein vs. the original Whopper’s 40 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, and 28 grams of protein.
“Certainly, an Impossible Whopper is not a health food, although there’s no cholesterol since it’s not from an animal- it’s probably a pretty even trade,” O’Brian said.
(Skip the mayonnaise if you want to avoid the 10 mg of cholesterol in the Impossible Whopper).
Animal agriculture takes more land to produce the same amount of food, O’Brian said.
“If you took a gram of beef as opposed to a gram of soy or corn, it takes about 100 times more land,” O’Brian said.
Animal agriculture also uses more water, since more land requires more irrigation, and animals like cattle produce methane, which has “substantial effects” on the environment, O’Brian said.
“Agriculture in general takes a lot of fossil fuels to generate fertilizer and for running machines,” O’Brian said. “The more land you need to deal with to maintain them has a greater environmental impact since it uses more resources.”
According to the USDA, last year, Americans were on track to consume 222 lbs. of red meat each.
“There’s probably no silver bullet solution, but by reducing our meat intake we can certainly make a positive impact, I think,” he added.
O’Brian said that small changes, like swapping beef for pork, can also have a positive impact on the environment.
“I think it’s probably unreasonable for most people to wake up tomorrow and say ‘I’m going to be a vegetarian’,” O’Brian said.
You can find plant-based alternatives like the Impossible Burger at many local restaurants in the WNY area- but its availability at Burger King means that it can be found nearly anywhere in America.
“It all depends on access,” O’Brian said. “If Burger King is producing this, and of course Burger Kings are everywhere, that has the potential to help out.”