Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Support NHPR's local journalism that brings clarity, context, and community!

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.
Related Content

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.