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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: 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.

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