Startups Look to Perfect a Meatless Hamburger

Jacob Bunge and Patrick McGroarty reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “A new generation of startups is racing to solve a puzzle: how to make a juicy burger without harming a single steer.

“Food scientists are mixing pea, soybean and beet molecules into concoctions that mimic ground beef. Bioengineers are growing muscle tissue from animal cells in steel tanks.

The question is whether either method can find favor beyond vegetarians and animal-rights activists among the U.S. consumers who overwhelmingly identify themselves as carnivores.”

The Journal article noted that, “‘The key to us isn’t to focus on those who’ve already chosen plant-based foods, but on those that really love a great-tasting burger,’ said David Lee, chief operating officer of Impossible Foods Inc., a Redwood City, Calif., startup that makes patties from molecules derived from potatoes, coconuts and legumes.

Mr. Lee and others in the startup sector say that consumers have an appetite for foods that are easier on the environment to produce.”

Bunge and Patrick McGroarty pointed out that, “So far, chefs are charging $12 to $19 for Impossible Burgers of varying sizes, but Mr. Lee says the product would compete on price with conventional beef as production scales up. In 2014, it cost Impossible Foods about $20 to produce one patty, while conventional ground beef recently sold at wholesale for roughly $1.62 a pound, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

The Journal article added that, “Another pack of startups is growing meat without slaughtering a single animal. ‘We do have the ability, which plant-based products might not have, to produce an exact mimic,’ said Mark Post, co-founder of Netherlands-based Mosa Meat.

“Using self-renewing animal cells, scientists for Memphis Meats Inc., Mosa, and Tel Aviv-based SuperMeat are growing skeletal muscle in bioreactor tanks that can be harvested and formed into meatballs, burgers and chicken strips. The founders envision brewery-like facilities churning out ‘clean meat’ with a fraction of the water that poultry and livestock require.”

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