Impossible Burger boasts much smaller carbon footprint than beef

March 26, 2019

The carbon footprint of the latest Impossible Burger recipe is 89% smaller than a burger made from real beef, according to a science-based life cycle assessment released by the company this week. The report found the Impossible Burger reduces environmental impacts in every category studied, resulting in use of 87% less water, 96% less land, 89% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and 92% fewer aquatic pollutants.

The assessment was verified by the Swiss sustainability consulting group Quantis, as it looked at impacts of producing the plant-based Impossible Burger compared to beef in the industrial livestock system across these environmental categories.

Patrick Brown, Impossible Foods’ CEO, chairman and founder said, “We are dead serious about our mission of providing vastly more sustainable options than livestock in the food chain and to do that, we have to make meat that’s delicious, nutritious, versatile and affordable — and it must also be vastly more efficient and sustainable than anything else on the market.”

Impossible Foods said it plans to do a retail launch later this year of the next-generation recipe that switched out textured wheat protein for soy protein concentrate.

The product reformulation improved the Impossible Burger’s sustainability credentials. That’s due to greater company efficiency as it scales up and the wheat-to-soy ingredient change since soy has a higher yield per acre. Still, the business magazine noted that “the majority of the impact simply comes from the fact that the product isn’t made from an animal.”

Additional recipe changes included reducing the salt content, replacing some coconut oil with sunflower oil and removing konjac gum and xanthan gum. Such alterations are likely to appeal to consumers who increasingly look for foods free from certain ingredients, including antibiotics, pesticides and gluten.​

Impossible Foods has a lot to gain by publicizing this life cycle assessment because it underscores the relative sustainability details of plant-based products versus those from traditional animal-based agriculture. For consumers looking to reduce their meat consumption, lighten their carbon footprint, and support cleaner labels and transparency, this is likely to enhance the Impossible brand even more.

The company seems to be trying to transmit as much transparency as possible when it comes to product ingredients, which is another value consumers hold dear. Shoppers looking for protein products taking less land and water to produce are likely to support manufacturers who follow through when it comes to sustainability.

Still, Impossible Foods knows those elements aren’t enough if the product doesn’t appeal to consumers when it comes to the all-important issue of flavour.

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