The Food and Drug Administration just gave the thumbs up for the major beef-like ingredient in the the Impossible Burger, soy leghemoglobin. Upon cooking, it reacts to generate heme, the source of the redness of beef.
The science behind the Impossible Burger is fascinating, so I went straight to the source rather than relying on the media echo chamber — the patent. But I’ve also eaten quite a few.
My first encounter with the Impossible Burger was pinching a piece off my dinner companion’s plate in February. It looked and seemed to bleed like a real burger. As I chewed, I googled the product on my phone, stopping at the word “heme.”
I stopped chewing. Once I got past the image of a bovine muscle pulsating on the plate, I envisioned the iron atom within its porphyrin ring, both lying within a surrounding globular protein, a little like a tootsie roll pop.
Heme in various guises is found in all species, from bacteria to beans to buffalos. It’s at the heart of the myoglobin in our muscles and the hemoglobin in our blood, packed most densely into the muscle cells of beef cattle.