May 20, 2019

Impossible burger reinvents fast food

On April fools of all days, Burger King decided to announce its trial run of the Impossible Whopper at 59 locations in the St. Louis area only. As a vegetarian of two years who grew up loving the original Whopper at family picnics and long road trips, this was life altering news for me.

I decided to go over to the Burger King on Brentwood Boulevard in Richmond Heights to try the new fast food wonder. I’ve had Impossible Burgers before, but never in a fast food setting.

As I took my first bite I was transported back to getting Whoppers with my dad after elementary school. It tastes the exact same, if not better, as the original Whopper. I went with a non-vegetarian friend of mine and he confirmed for me they taste the exact same.

White Castle and Hardee’s both serve vegan burgers as well. White Castle has an Impossible Slider and Hardee’s sells a Beyond Meat Burger. I decided to try White Castle’s vegan option as well, even though I have always had a deep disdain for those tiny little sliders with pathetically thin meat slices with a slice of cheese and two pickles. My expectations were on the floor.

However, the Impossible Slider patty at White Castle is thick and “beefy” unlike its disgrace of an original beef patty that has the thickness of a slice of Imo’s pizza and barely qualifies as beef.

The Impossible Burger is made from soy protein, coconut oil, potato protein and soy hemoglobin. The last ingredient is what makes it look and taste like real meat.

What I found to be most interesting about this entire vegan fast food experience was that Hardee’s, White Castle and Burger King, three notoriously trashy fast food joints, are the ones paving the way for vegan fast food burgers in the U.S.

McDonald’s unleashed its McVegan burger in Tampere, Finland and made it a permanent item on menus in Sweden and Finland in December 2017. However, they have never tried the burger out in U.S. markets (although I sense they will very soon).

This new wave of vegan/plant-based fast food coming to the U.S. is incredibly important. A study by the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan found the Beyond Burger generates 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, requires 46 percent less energy, has 99 percent less impact on water scarcity and 93 percent less impact on land use than a quarter pound of U.S. beef.

From a health standpoint, the Impossible Burger at Burger King is only 30 calories less than the original beef Whopper. However, beef burgers have been linked to a slew of health problems like heart disease, high cholesterol and cancer. So far, there have been no significant scientific studies done on the Impossible Burger’s long term health effects as it is a relatively new product on the market.

There’s no reason why fast food restaurants can’t substitute low quality, unhealthy beef with environmentally friendly and equally tasty alternatives.

According to the United Nations, we only have 12 years left before we start to see the detrimental effects of climate change. Any small change helps in reducing our carbon footprint. So next time you’re craving a tasty Whopper or a White Castle slider, consider swapping for the environmentally friendly (and tastier) plant-based option. Mother nature thanks you in advance.

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