Lab meat is a hit, Impossible Whopper sells out

By James Chilton, Cowboy State Daily

ST. LOUIS – Well folks, it’s official. Burger King announced April 29 that it shall make the impossible possible. Not only has the fast food institution managed to create a vegetarian burger that tastes nearly indistinguishable from the original beef Whopper; but the plant-based patty doppelganger has managed to win the hearts and minds of Burger King’s initial test market and will be making its way to a franchise near you by year’s end.

Just in time to sync up with the Blade Runner timeline, too.

Initial reviews of the Impossible Whopper — made with the faux hamburger known as the Impossible Burger — have been so positive that Burger King has announced the sandwich will be made available at 7,000 of its locations.

The expansion of the offering, along with Impossible Foods’ deals to provide other fast food restaurants with its Impossible Burger, have contributed to a shortage of the plant-based meat, according to online food magazine Eater.

The development points to a growing demand for meat-free dining, as does the fact that Impossible Foods’ main rival, Beyond Meat, saw a 170 percent gain in its stock value on the day last week it first offered stock for sale.

I was fortunate enough to find myself in Burger King’s initial Impossible Whopper test market, having moved from Cheyenne back to my hometown of St. Louis in the spring of 2017. And so, I decided to see whether the Impossible Whopper really lives up to its ambitious moniker. Over the past week I’ve sampled two of them, one for comparison’s sake alongside its meatier predecessor, the other as a standalone lunch.

Going in, I suppose it’s only fair that I make a few things clear: First off, I’m neither a Burger King loyalist nor a detractor. Subjectively, if we’re ranking fast food chains, I suppose I’d consider it second to McDonalds in the “generic ubiquitous burger restaurant now known more for its ubiquity than its burgers” category of burger joints. But in all honesty it’s just one of those fast food places I never really get around to very often, even when I am in the mood for fast food. No prejudice against the place, it just sort of worked out that way.

So in judging the flavor of the Impossible Whopper against that of the genuine article, I didn’t expect either sandwich to meet some pre-conceived Whopper flavor profile I’ve concocted over years of experience. So if you’ve eaten a Whopper every week for the last 10 years, there’s a chance you’ll bite into this thing with somewhat different taste expectations than I did. 

That said, having tasted the Impossible Whopper twice now, I must admit Burger King did a great job in mimicking the overall Whopper experience. 

Taken with an assortment of standard toppings and a side of fries, the Impossible Whopper eats like a burger. You bite, chew, swallow, and everything feels the way it’s supposed to feel; nothing rubbery or spongy. As for the taste, the only telltale signs you’re not eating a standard Whopper are a distinct lack of greasiness and a faint, vaguely peanut-like undertone to the flavor. I found it subtle enough that if you didn’t know you weren’t eating a meat patty, you likely wouldn’t notice.

Now, none of this is meant to imply that plant-based burgers are going to knock meat off the menu anytime soon. But having sampled my fair share of meat substitutes over the years, it feels like the Impossible Whopper is something different, something that’s managed to claw its way up out of the far end of the uncanny valley. And I’m apparently not the only one who feels that way. 

Eric Bohl of the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization, sampled the Impossible Whopper himself shortly after the St. Louis pilot program began. Like me, he noticed only subtle differences in taste compared to the traditional Whopper, prompting him to warn ranchers not to dismiss the Impossible Burger as a one-off fad.

“This is not just another disgusting tofu burger that only a dedicated hippie could convince himself to eat,” Bohl declared, in an April 3 post to the farm bureau website. “It’s 95 percent of the way there, and the recipe is likely to only get better.”

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