I finally used the grinder attachment on the KitchenAid mixer my grandmother gave me 20 years ago. I used it to help my son grind deer meat into burger. While he was hauling in quarters from his kill and the grinder attachment was humming along, a commercial for an “impossible” burger came on the TV. The commercial was compelling; even a cowboy was eating the impossible substance. (I guess a meat alternative product can only be legitimized if a cowboy is willing to eat it.)
Having alternatives to meat products – especially in fast food restaurants – is a great way to attract vegetarians. But my understanding is this product was invented to attract meat eaters to consume less meat. I checked the calorie count on the Impossible Burger, and it has 630 calories compared to the 660 calories of a “possible” beef burger. The Impossible Burger does have some fiber, and less saturated fat, but the nutritional value isn’t a sharp contrast to beef. Even when new products offer a vastly different nutritional value than traditional products, it’s hard to persuade Americans to change their diet. Remember the Olean fat alternative that was put into potato chips 15 years ago? I thought that product was my diet’s salvation. Turns out I ate just as many chips made with the fat alternative as the real thing and the product was of zero assistance to my diet (and apparently the rest of Americans’ diets too).
Some are touting the “impossible” meat alternative as a mechanism by which to reduce carbon emissions from cattle. The theory has it that carbon emissions from cattle are a catalyst to global warming, and if we remove one of the alleged causes of global warming then the world will be a better place. I never thought I’d see the day when cows would be viewed as an enemy to mankind. Granted, I like my beef grass fed and locally sourced, but that’s about as far as I will go to restrict my food sources. I don’t see the global warming argument as a compelling justification to sink my fork into a soy burger, and I’d hazard to guess that most meat eaters will be equally unpersuaded.
I typically like my steak with a side of steak, so I’m a sure miss as a target consumer of a meat alternative. Perhaps some cowboys will be open-minded enough to give this new substance a shot, but I predict the meat alternative will suffer the same fate as Olean – start out with a bang, but quickly fizzle in popularity. Until my favorite movie cowboy, Sam Elliott, becomes the “impossible burger” spokesperson, beef will remain “what’s for dinner” at my house.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.