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Is This Biochemist’s Veggie Burger the Closest Thing to Real Meat?


Image credit: Impossible Foods.

We know that human being prefer to eat meat generally. However such habit would cause some obvious consequences, because it is unsustainable, always lead to the poor treatment of animals and enormously affect environment. For such reasons, scientists are making great efforts to work out some smart alternatives, which are capable to meet requirements of meat lovers as well as that of vegetarians.

Last year in London, the first test-tube burger in the world was cooked and appreciated at a news conference. With obviously good taste, this burger was made from stem cells extracted from cows and then cultured in the lab. However, it is still a long way to go before this burger could be on sales, because its cost was amazingly $330,000.

In order to go for a quite different strategy, Patrick Brown, the biochemist from StanfordUniversity has worked out a weirdly wonderful approach to make beef burger alternatives, which were environmentally friendly, but only at a fraction of the previous cost.

Different from the former burger, the patties Patrick Brown made were totally meatless, but in fact they looked like meat and tasted the same. The above picture showed how delicious his burgers were. And now the company of Impossible Foods Patrick Brown owns has started to manufacture such burgers.

The secret of Brown’s burgers lied in an ingredient called heme which could be extracted from a protein called leghemoglobin discovered in leguminous plants. It was known that leghemoglobin shared the similarity with hemoglobin existing in our blood.

Both of such proteins were closely associated with the transport of oxygen which was much helped by the heme groups. Hemes consisted of an iron atom, which was centered within an organic ring, and this iron could offer oxygen-attracting properties to the molecule. When oxygen was bonded to the iron atom, it would be oxidized, thus ensuring the whole protein to become redder in the way that the burger looked bloody. However, heme did not only make this burger look like real one, it was also much helpful in creating similar flavors like those found in meat.

In attempt to find the recipe of right taste, Brown has tried to more different plant ingredients. The result was quite impressive, because it looked really like meat. Although the texture was somehow more turkey-like rather than beef-like, its cost was only $20, much cheaper than that of the test-tube burgers. It was hoped by Brown that with more efforts put into his work, his burger would be more beefy and that even meat lovers would be eager to appreciate its taste.