Impossible vs. Beyond Burger
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
There seems to be a lot of people that are so excited to having a plant based burger that tastes like a real beef burger. I can say that I haven't been one of them. A few weeks ago we were together with friends and they wanted to order from a local establishment to get the Impossible Burger. (Evidently they do this at least once a week.) We opted in just because I wanted to try it and they did have a gluten free bun. With all the hype I was really expecting to be blown away. But I can tell you that I was not impressed. I mean it was okay, but it wasn't like I walked away thinking of my next Impossible Burger. That said, I decided to do a little digging to find out what the actual ingredients are in the Impossible Burger and their competitor the Beyond Burger.
You can see from the Nutrition Label comparison (above) that Beyond Burger has 50 more calories, 80g more sodium, and 8g more total fat, but 3g less saturated fat. But I don't just look at the nutrition label, I spend more time reading the ingredient label.
So, let's look at the ingredients. Beyond Burger Ingredients: Pea Protein Isolate, expeller press canola oil, refined coconut oil, water, yeast extract, maltodextrin, natural flavors, gum Arabic, sunflower oil, salt, succinic acid, acetic acid, non-GMO modified food starch, cellulose from bamboo, methylcellulose, potato starch, beet juice extract (for color), ascorbic acid (to maintain color), annatto extract (for color), citrus fruit extract (to maintain quality), vegetable glycerin. Impossible Burger Ingredients: water, soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil, natural flavors, potato protein, methylcellulose, yeast extract, cultured dextrose, food starch modified, soy leghemoglobin, salt, soy protein isolate, mixed tocopherols (vitamin E), zinc gluconate, thiamine hydrochloride (vitamin B1), sodium ascorbate (vitamin C), niacin, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), Riboflavin (vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.
This looks like a combination of some recognizable food ingredients, but there are also other ingredients that I can't find in my pantry. Let's look at what some of these ingredients are.
What exactly is a “natural flavor?” According to the FDA, a natural flavor to be an additive to a product, “which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.” So, natural flavors generally come from plant or animal sources, such as the natural strawberry flavor for a yogurt. Conversely, any substance used to flavor a product that is not derived from one of the sources listed in the natural flavor’s definition is considered an artificial flavor by the FDA. So if a product says "natural flavors" you really have no idea of the origin.
Soy leghemoglobin: A protein that contains heme, a compound also found in red meat (specifically, in the myoglobin in red meat) and blood (in hemoglobin). According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the World Health Organization, there is “strong evidence” that heme contributes to the carcinogenic mechanisms associated with red and processed meats. Impossible Food told FDA: “Once cooked and digested, both soy leghemoglobin and animal-based myoglobin release identical heme B molecules into the digestive system.” So I'm confused....is this a plant based burger?
And then there is this: Soy Leghemoglobin has not been subjected to any long-term safety testing. The FDA relied only on a 28 day study. (you can read more at https://cspinet.org/news/barebones-fda-review-impossible-burger-soy-leghemoglobin-inadequate-20190903 )
Soy protein concentrate: Soy is processed using a chemical called Hexane, a byproduct of gasoline refining. EPA lists Hexane as a hazardous air pollutant. You can read more here:
Final thought: If you are a vegan, do you really want something that tastes like meat? If you are a omnivore, why do you think a product made in a chemical plant is healthier than a grass fed burger? Would I order the Impossible Burger again? Probably not.