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posted by Fnord666 on Saturday September 23 2017, @01:52AM   Printer-friendly
from the just-no-words dept.

From Wired:

WIRED wants to take you on the deepest dive yet into the science behind the Impossible Burger.

Biting into an Impossible Burger is to bite into a future in which humanity has to somehow feed an exploding population and not further imperil the planet with ever more livestock. Because livestock, and cows in particular, go through unfathomable amounts of food and water (up to 11,000 gallons a year per cow) and take up vast stretches of land. And their gastrointestinal methane emissions aren't doing the fight against global warming any favors either (cattle gas makes up 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide).

This is the inside story of the engineering of the Impossible Burger, the fake meat on a mission to change the world with one part soy plant, one part genetically engineered yeast—and one part activism. As it happens, though, you can't raise hell in the food supply without first raising a few eyebrows.

[...] Technicians take genes that code for the soy leghemoglobin protein and insert them into a species of yeast called Pichia pastoris. They then feed the modified yeast sugar and minerals, prompting it to grow and replicate and manufacture heme with a fraction of the footprint of field-grown soy. With this process, Impossible Foods claims it produces a fake burger that uses a 20th of the land required for feeding and raising livestock and uses a quarter of the water, while producing an eighth of the greenhouse gases (based on a metric called a life cycle assessment).

Now, engineering a "beef" burger from scratch is of course about more than just heme, which Impossible Foods bills as its essential ingredient. Ground beef features a galaxy of different compounds that interact with each other, transforming as the meat cooks. To piece together a plant-based burger that's indistinguishable from the real thing, you need to identify and recreate as many of those flavors as possible.

To do this, Impossible Foods is using what's known as a gas chromatography mass spectrometry system. This heats a sample of beef, releasing aromas that bind to a piece of fiber. The machine then isolates and identifies the individual compounds responsible for those aromas. "So we will now have kind of a fingerprint of every single aroma that is in beef," says Celeste Holz-Schietinger, principal scientist at Impossible Foods. "Then we can say, How close is the Impossible Burger? Where can we make improvements and iterate to identify how to make each of those particular flavor compounds?"

This sort of deconstruction is common in food science, a way to understand exactly how different compounds produce different flavors and aromas. "In theory, if you knew everything that was there in the right proportions, you could recreate from the chemicals themselves that specific flavor or fragrance," says Staci Simonich, a chemist at Oregon State University.


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  • (Score: 1, Flamebait) by Runaway1956 on Saturday September 23 2017, @01:56AM (11 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Saturday September 23 2017, @01:56AM (#571943) Homepage Journal

    I want to be the first kid on my block to get some of this stuff!! NOT!!

    There are probably enough cows left in the world, that I can continue eating beef for the rest of my life. There are lots of deer, pigs, sheep, and goats. I'll probably never eat any vat-grown meat, thank you very much. But, it's good that the proles have something to eat. I would hate it if the city people started moving out here, and eating all the livestock and wildlife.

    --
    “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.” ― George S. Patton on Ukraine
    • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:05AM (7 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:05AM (#571946)

      You would eat it if it was handed to you.

      • (Score: 3, Touché) by Runaway1956 on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:16AM (6 children)

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:16AM (#571949) Homepage Journal

        Probably not. You're assuming a lot with that statement. Who handed it to me? When and where? How hungry am I? Is there a real restaurant nearby? And, what you don't know about me is, I can go a long time without eating. I know from experience that a person doesn't drop dead if he misses a meal. And, don't try to sneak it into my menu. Your chances are nil.

        --
        “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.” ― George S. Patton on Ukraine
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:43AM (3 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:43AM (#571957)

          Who the hell are you!? Why do you have that kind of power!?

          • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Saturday September 23 2017, @03:15AM (2 children)

            by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Saturday September 23 2017, @03:15AM (#571974) Journal

            Why do you have that kind of power!?

            I reckon he's owning a ranch of some sort.
            I may try it too, I hear they are cheap in some areas.

            --
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @10:20AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @10:20AM (#572062)

              There are no "ranches" in Arkansas, only hillbilly homesteads. But they grow no meat, so if someone handed this to Runaway, it would probably be at the local national drive through of a chain fast food franchise. He would never even know what he was eating, and that is not even going into what the "minimum wage" guys in the back room were doing in the way of "value adding" to his "burger".

            • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:03PM

              by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:03PM (#572101) Homepage Journal

              I certainly wouldn't use the term "ranch", although I've seen the term used for little farms smaller than my 15 acres.

              But, yes, there is meat on the hoof all around me, some of which I buy feed for.

              --
              “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.” ― George S. Patton on Ukraine
        • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @03:12AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @03:12AM (#571973)

          Who handed it to me?

          The pittance services

          When and where?

          Then and there, on an everyday basis

          How hungry am I?

          Objectively, you are maintained in a very lean state, so probably bordering starvation.
          Subjectively, very little through the fog of tranqs - no, you are no longer mean, you can't.

          Is there a real restaurant nearby?

          Yes, it is. But your D¡ck Niggεrs masters don't eat an old pussy like you - and there's no way a scum can be allowed in a restaurant - common sense, sanitation and hygiene.

          And, what you don't know about me is, I can go a long time without eating.

          But not for years.

          It can happen, you know it.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @08:01PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @08:01PM (#572160)

            Really DN, that's all the fight you can muster? Sad. Could at least have made a beef joke.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by fyngyrz on Saturday September 23 2017, @10:27AM (2 children)

      by fyngyrz (6567) on Saturday September 23 2017, @10:27AM (#572063) Journal

      I want to be the first kid on my block to get some of this stuff!! NOT!!

      That's fine; I'll try it. And pretty much any other attempt at either a replacement, or a vat-grown alternative.

      The problem has been, thus far, that these things really haven't been very good.

      I suspect they'll get where they need to be eventually, and when they do, there will be significant benefits. Environmental, animal welfare, cost - all of these are strong marketing points. None of them will really fly until they get taste, mouth feel, nutrition and safety all wrapped up in a reasonable cost package, though.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 24 2017, @03:57AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 24 2017, @03:57AM (#572233)

        None of them will really fly until they get taste, mouth feel, nutrition and safety

        Just say texture! [grrlpowercomic.com]

        • (Score: 2) by fyngyrz on Friday September 29 2017, @06:10AM

          by fyngyrz (6567) on Friday September 29 2017, @06:10AM (#574697) Journal

          Texture is not even remotely the same as mouth feel, so no, I'm not going to say that. Texture is something that exists outside the mouth, and does not necessarily transfer intact to the mouth, either. Mouth feel is the non-taste sensory experience inside the mouth - which involves considerably more than pressure sensing. It's not simply a matter of surface or interior makeup of the object, either; it's also about liquid content, lubricity, spice bite, thermal impact and so forth. That's why there's a term for it; that's why I use it.

          You are free to describe the matter any way you like, of course.

  • (Score: 2, Disagree) by jmorris on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:33AM (9 children)

    by jmorris (4844) on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:33AM (#571951)

    These idiots think they can produce something that is indistinguishable from beef in a lab AND sell it cheaper? To get beef you mostly just put some cows in a field and let them act like cows for a bit, keep a vet on standby in case one gets sick and at the end put them in a feedlot and bulk up a bit before you turn it into patties and steaks. Hard to beat nature at Her own game.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:35AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:35AM (#571954)

      The free market will surely produce results.

      • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @05:52AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @05:52AM (#572011)

        Until it encounters our Religious Freedom(tm) to dominate the Earth and the animals.

        • (Score: 2) by marcello_dl on Monday September 25 2017, @06:43AM

          by marcello_dl (2685) on Monday September 25 2017, @06:43AM (#572566)

          Wow just imagine the destruction when religion was blindly followed, compared to secular states. Oh wait.
          It is strange that mindless destruction of natural resources temporally coincides with post declaration-of-rights, post french revolution governments.

          Maybe the explanation is that to be put in charge of something means also to care for it, instead of having all the other precepts suspended so you can do whatever you want. Logically it would made no sense too. But OK you came with that, I rate you as a particularly good troll.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by driven on Saturday September 23 2017, @05:51AM (5 children)

      by driven (6295) on Saturday September 23 2017, @05:51AM (#572009)

      The point isn't to beat nature at her own game:

      With this process, Impossible Foods claims it produces a fake burger that uses a 20th of the land required for feeding and raising livestock and uses a quarter of the water, while producing an eighth of the greenhouse gases (based on a metric called a life cycle assessment).

      It's to create a more sustainable "meat" product, since it's pretty clear most people aren't willing to become a vegetarian.
      I'm disappointed [thedeliciousrevolution.com] they're using soy, though.

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by jmorris on Saturday September 23 2017, @06:09AM (4 children)

        by jmorris (4844) on Saturday September 23 2017, @06:09AM (#572021)

        All that is stupid though. Pasture land is generally land that is not suited to high intensity agriculture anyway, water is not nearly the problem the chicken little types believe (although water distribution is) and unless the cows are eating fossil fuels their net carbon impact is zero. So those are distractions, the point is to force us all to pay more for the dubious honor of becoming vegan. And make no mistake, force it will be; if guilt tripping doesn't work expect calls for the guns of The State to enforce their 'obviously superior morality' on those of us less enlightened.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by DeathMonkey on Saturday September 23 2017, @06:40AM (1 child)

          by DeathMonkey (1380) on Saturday September 23 2017, @06:40AM (#572028) Journal

          Pasture land is generally land that is not suited to high intensity agriculture anyway

          Modern beef production doesn't use pastures.

          It's all feedyard these days. [beefusa.org]

          • (Score: 2) by qzm on Sunday September 24 2017, @09:32AM

            by qzm (3260) on Sunday September 24 2017, @09:32AM (#572268)

            Only in America...

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by driven on Saturday September 23 2017, @01:28PM

          by driven (6295) on Saturday September 23 2017, @01:28PM (#572090)

          Pasture land is generally land that is not suited to high intensity agriculture anyway

          "Cattle ranching is the largest driver of deforestation in every Amazon country, accounting for 80% [yale.edu] of current deforestation rates... Cattle ranching in the Amazon region is a low yield activity, where densities often average just one cattle per hectare... Because cattle use energy to convert grass into protein, several times the amount of land is needed to produce an equal amount of beef as poultry, and about 10 times the amount of land than needed to produce grain. In Brazil, pasture land outweighs planted cropland by about 5 times."

        • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @01:36PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @01:36PM (#572091)

          unless the cows are eating fossil fuels their net carbon impact is zero

          Unfortunately this isn't quite true. Cows emit methane, which is a more powerful greenhouse gas than the CO2 that the plants the cows ate consumed. Methane turns into CO2 in the atmosphere, but it takes a few years and during that time the methane is more damaging.

          It's also overlooking the emissions coming from the farming operations but not the cows themselves - which is fair, because this is hard to measure and the vat operations will have their own, so determining the actual impact here is hard.

          In the end, this is no different from solar power or electric cars. The environmentalists can cluck and finger-point all they want, but nothing will change until the cost and quality is competitive. There's no real need to oppose the research, let's just wait and see.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:59AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:59AM (#571967)

    If it's not beef, don't disguise it as beef. Just accept the fact that some people simply don't like soyblob sandwiches, and that those that do won't touch this because "omg genetically modified".

    • (Score: 2) by steveha on Saturday September 23 2017, @03:20AM (1 child)

      by steveha (4100) on Saturday September 23 2017, @03:20AM (#571976)

      Just accept the fact that some people simply don't like soyblob sandwiches

      Hmm, it might taste better if you mix in some lentils. Maybe make crackers out of the mix.

      Hey, actual product! Soylent Crackers [buysoylentgreen.com]

      Looks like this was a product in 2014. Aw man, I missed my chance to buy this. :-(

  • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @03:10AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @03:10AM (#571972)

    How are they still in business?

  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @03:22AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @03:22AM (#571977)

    That stuff is poison! Stay away!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @03:37AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @03:37AM (#571986)

      You weren't using your manhood anyway.

  • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @08:10AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @08:10AM (#572042)

    1) Company says "Our soy hemo is safe! It's similar to other stuff we eat"
    2) FDA says "Uh that doesn't count, plus there are 40 other proteins".
    3) Company then feeds rats ONLY soy hemo and not the 40 other proteins, and declares it's OK.
    4) Company then puts product on market.
    5) Other groups are unhappy because GRAS is for stuff that normal folk have been eating for centuries and it's politically incorrect to declare them as unsafe even if they would be for typical doses used in "rat dose experiments" for novel substances.

    My guess is it's probably safer than soda and fries. Many of us eat more dangerous stuff anyway.

    However following the Monsanto playbook doesn't help their case: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/weed-whacking-herbicide-p/ [scientificamerican.com]
    e.g. Monsanto does experiments to show that glyphosate is safe and then uses the results to claim that their herbicide is safe, but their herbicide is not just glyphosate.

    But in the new study, scientists found that Roundup’s inert ingredients amplified the toxic effect on human cells—even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns.

    Federal law classifies all pesticide ingredients that don’t harm pests as “inert,” she said. Inert compounds, therefore, aren’t necessarily biologically or toxicologically harmless – they simply don’t kill insects or weeds.

    Glyphosate became more harmful when combined with POEA, and POEA alone was more deadly to cells than glyphosate. The research appears in the January issue of the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @01:39PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @01:39PM (#572093)

      It's nice to see attempts to actually explain what is going on, because glyphosate itself is most likely quite safe, so what's the problem?

      This is the government at their best. Anything that kills weeds we have to regulate, but if it just kills people then anything goes.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:01PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:01PM (#572100)

    Because livestock, and cows in particular, go through unfathomable amounts of food and water (up to 11,000 gallons a year per cow)

    This water is reused right? The cows urinate, the H20 evaporates, then those same molecules rain down somewhere else to be consumed. So the water isn't going away.

    • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:12PM

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Saturday September 23 2017, @02:12PM (#572105) Homepage Journal

      It may be a little more complex than drink, urinate, evaporate, get rained on. A lot of plants are very happy to absorb that urine, with all of the nutrients found in it. Insects are often observed during a hot summer, collecting around a pool of urine, before it soaks into the ground. That moisture can be pretty important to the environment in which the cows are raised.

      --
      “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.” ― George S. Patton on Ukraine
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @04:40PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @04:40PM (#572130)

      It's going away if the water comes from an aquifer. Just like most of our hydrocarbons come from fossil fuels.

      But let's not get over-fixated on cows. Almond farming uses 10% of California's water: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2014/05/_10_percent_of_california_s_water_goes_to_almond_farming.html [slate.com]

  • (Score: 2) by RedBear on Saturday September 23 2017, @05:17PM

    by RedBear (1734) Subscriber Badge on Saturday September 23 2017, @05:17PM (#572134)

    META: The function of the "[Continues...]" expansion link in the summary is undiscoverable (visually).

    The truncated summary on this article can apparently be expanded on the front page without needing to visit the article page, by clicking anywhere on the otherwise empty line containing the text "[Continues...]". However, there is nothing visually about the text or the white space around it that suggests it is a clickable link. I only discovered the link because my mouse cursor kept inexplicably changing to a hand as I moved through the whitespace just below the summary text. Whitespace normally isn't clickable unless there is a bug in a CSS box or something. I decided to click and see what it does. I expected it to go to the article page just like the Read More button. Instead it expanded the rest of the summary text, right on the main page. Like a spoiler tag, except it gives no visual indication of being a spoiler tag.

    If I hadn't discovered this function by accident, I could have come here for another ten years without having any inclination to click there. It's so undiscoverable I have no idea whether it's an experiment some editor tried just for this particular article or it's been here for months or years.

    tl;dr: Clickable links should appear clickable somehow. Always.

    --
    ¯\_ʕ◔.◔ʔ_/¯ LOL. I dunno. I'm just a bear.
    ... Peace out. Got bear stuff to do. 彡ʕ⌐■.■ʔ
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by slap on Saturday September 23 2017, @06:19PM (4 children)

    by slap (5764) on Saturday September 23 2017, @06:19PM (#572143)

    I expect that in 25-30 years the world population will start decreasing. It's already started in some countries.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 24 2017, @02:11AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 24 2017, @02:11AM (#572219)

      Apparently, you haven't noticed all the anti-abortion/anti-contraceptive busybodies in the USA.
      Even people who don't want kids are losing that option.

      ...and folks in India (only a small margin away from being the most populous country) think that lots of kids is a good thing.

      Huge numbers of people across the globe aren't aware that contraception is a thing.

      Until there is
      1) better education of women
      2) contraception on demand
      3) abortion on demand
      don't expect anything other than more increases in population.

      -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 24 2017, @03:57AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 24 2017, @03:57AM (#572234)

        You're kidding, right? Just about every time someone comes along with a new submarine abortion ban, they get slapped down by the courts referring to repeated SCOTUS decisions to the effect that bad faith regulation is impermissible. Sure, there's a temporary fuss and some hand-wringing, but the result is pretty much a foregone conclusion. And birth control is easier to get than decongestants at this point (I know, I know, meth is bad, yaddayadda ...) not to mention that you can bulk order condoms right off freaking Amazon. (I know. I did it.)

        When SCOTUS decides that back door bans are A-ok, and that contraception is also open to bans, wake me up. (Oh, and not ACTUALLY REQUIRING zero-cost contraception coverage in insurance plans isn't a ban, so don't bother.)

        In other news:

        The mere fact that the Westboro Baptists are busybodying about gay people in the military doesn't mean that homosexuality is about to be banned.

        The mere fact that Greenpeace are busybodying about logging doesn't mean that tree farming is about to be banned.

        The mere fact that Bernie is busybodying about the $15 minimum wage doesn't mean that it's about to be implemented.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 24 2017, @04:45AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 24 2017, @04:45AM (#572243)

          From your lips to $DIETY's ear.

          In the meantime, there are states where there is a single facility that provides abortions.
          Folks have to travel hours to get there and have to make multiple trips.
          Abortion may not be illegal there, but for many it may as well be.

          -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

    • (Score: 2) by deimtee on Sunday September 24 2017, @03:12AM

      by deimtee (3272) on Sunday September 24 2017, @03:12AM (#572226) Journal

      Evolution says that is a temporary thing. Those that are genetically inclined to have more kids will replace those that are not.
      Changing circumstances (our suddenly affluent society providing reproductive choice) can upset things for a few generations but, not surprisingly, those that continue to have lots of kids have descendents who also have lots of kids. Those that choose not to have kids are, also not surprisingly, eliminating the "choose-no-kids-genes" from the gene pool.

      --
      No problem is insoluble, but at Ksp = 2.943×10−25 Mercury Sulphide comes close.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @09:57PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23 2017, @09:57PM (#572176)

    I'm having a hard time with their net efficiency claims.

    If you think corn is bad, in terms of sustainability, you must think that sugar is an environmental cataclysm of positively biblical proportions. Sugarcane is a notoriously thirsty crop grown under terribly environmentally exploitative conditions - and sugar beet is a row crop every bit as bad as potato. So where are they getting their sugar? If we're calculating lifecycle sources for cattle, then we should be doing the same for these not-a-burger burgers. Then of course you have all the processes around the growth medium, electrical demand for environmental controls, yadda yadda ...

    At the very least, before I give this any kind of green stamp of approval, I'd want to see a detailed audit of the energy and unsustainable chemical inputs to the source cycle.

    It might also possibly beat out pure feedlot beef (maybe - the jury's obviously out, and they don't even have their final product defined) but how about rangeland beef?

    Huge questions still to be answered.

  • (Score: 2) by hendrikboom on Saturday September 23 2017, @11:31PM (1 child)

    by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Saturday September 23 2017, @11:31PM (#572192) Homepage Journal

    When I visited England a few years ago, one of the things all the fast-food places had was veggieburgers. No attempt was made to make them be anything like meat. They were made of vegetables, they tasted like vegetables, and they were delicious.

    Can't get anything like it here in Montreal.

    -- hendrik

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 24 2017, @02:22AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 24 2017, @02:22AM (#572221)

      In my first 10 hits, [google.com] I see Delight Foods Soy Patties at Whole Foods Market.

      Multiple mentions of Jamaican soy patties as well.
      Got a Caribbean restaurant/bodega in that burg?

      -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

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