Perhaps the most-hyped vegan food product yet has been deemed safe.
The Impossible Burger — a plant-based patty that mimics cow meat's bleeding — got the federal Food and Drug Administration's blessing this week in a letter saying the agency had "no questions" regarding the safety of the ingredient that makes the burger bleed.
Dozens of restaurants across Minnesota carry the Impossible Burger.
There had been safety and allergen concerns regarding the burger's soy leghemoglobin. Impossible Foods, which makes the burger, creates soy leghemoglobin from the roots of soybean plants.
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When cooked, the soy leghemoglobin releases heme — an iron-laden molecule found in blood that makes the Impossible Burger "bleed" and taste like ground beef.
Impossible Foods CEO and founder Patrick Brown, a Stanford biochemist, said the FDA's approval shows the company prioritizes safety.
"Getting a no-questions letter goes above and beyond our strict compliance to all federal food-safety regulations," he said in a statement.
Impossible Foods markets its plant-based meat alternatives as a remedy to climate change and environmental degradation caused by traditional animal agriculture.
Cow farming is damaging to the climate for several reasons. It takes up land that could be used to store climate-warming carbon.
Beef production also requires massive amounts of water (about 1,800 gallons per pound).
And cows are the primary contributor to the half of global methane emissions coming from agriculture. Methane is almost 30 times stronger greenhouse gas than carbon.
Ways to cut your diet's footprint that aren't Impossible
But vegetarian and vegan meat alternatives go far past burger patties.
Here are some of the most common meat substitutes made from plants:
• Seitan: Made from vital wheat gluten, seitan sells as sticky chunks that are high in protein. It's the base for mock duck and resembles most of the line of "meats" at Minneapolis' all-vegan Herbivorous Butcher shop, mostly made from wheat gluten.
• Tempeh: This protein originates in Indonesia. It's soy-based like tofu, but isn't as heavily processed. Tempeh is high in fiber and protein, and works as a base for many flavorings in a variety of dishes.
• Jackfruit: This giant tree-borne fruit sells in its natural from, canned or in pre-flavored packaging. While it's often touted as a meat alternative for its taste and texture, it contains just 2.8 grams of protein per cup.
• Tofu: This ubiquitous soybean-based protein can do just about anything, but it's most common in Asian-styled dishes.
• Beans and legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, etc. The list goes on. Eat these on their own, or form them into a veggie burger. They're low-cost and healthy.