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Outside/In: Are plant-based meats better than the real thing?

An Impossible Burger (with cheese)
Ted Eytan
CC by 2.0
An Impossible Burger (with cheese)

Move over, beef: there’s a new burger in town. Plant-based meats are sizzling hot right now.

In 2020 alone, the alternative meat industry saw a record $3.1 billion in investment, with 112 new plant-based brands launching in supermarkets. These juicy, savory, chewy fake burgers are a far cry from the dry, weird-tasting veggie patties of the past.

In this episode, Gastropod co-hosts Nicole Twilley and Cynthia Graber visit the Impossible Foods labs to swig some of the animal-free molecule that makes their meatless meat bleed, try fungal food start-up Meati's prototype "chicken" cutlet, and speak to the scientists and historians who compare these new fake meats to their predecessors — and to real meat!

Can a plant-based sausage roll be considered kosher or halal? Are plant-based meats actually better for you and for the environment? And how might a mysterious protein-powerhouse fungus named Rosita help feed the world?

This episode was reported and produced by our friends at Gastropod.

An ad for Protose, one of the early plant-based meats, invented by J.H. Kellogg in the 1890s
Wikipedia Commons
An ad for Protose, one of the early plant-based meats, invented by J.H. Kellogg in the 1890s

Additional Reading

  • Read Aymann Ismail’s piece on the debates surrounding plant-based pig substitutes in Muslim communities here.
  • Celeste Holz-Schietinger, the VP of Product Innovation at Impossible Foods, featured in Fast Company as one of the most creative people in business in 2020.
  • Malte Rödl is a researcher in environmental communications at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. His PhD thesis is titled “Categorising Meat Alternatives: how dominant meat culture is reproduced and challenged through the making and eating of meat alternatives.”
  • Raychel Santo studies how plant-based meats measure up against animal meats in terms of both nutritional and environmental impacts. Read the full paper she and her colleagues wrote here.

Outside/In is a show where curiosity and the natural world collide. Click here for podcast episodes and more.
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