The term veganism was coined in November, 1944, by Donald Watson to better identify non-dairy vegetarians . Veganism is a step further from vegetarianism, creating a lifestyle that is defined by Watson “as a person who seeks to eat food exclusively from the plant kingdom”.
This excludes foods such as honey, gelatin, and dairy, but also clothing and accessories made from leather, wool, pearls, and ivory. The concept of veganism, however, isn’t new. Vegan and vegetarian lifestyles have a long history in humanity, being strongly connected to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism beliefs, which advocate to not inflict pain on animals.
To address the growing dietary demand, the fast food industry, which according to Time is consumed by nearly 40% of Americans on any given day, wants to provide a menu which is also appealing for vegans. Veganism includes celebrities Natalie Portman, Ellen DeGeneres, Ariana Grande, and Liam Hemsworth.
2018 was marked “Year of Veganism”, showing the vegan lifestyle is on the rise. In 2014, the campaign called “Veganuary” began, which works to motivate people to try a vegan lifestyle during the month January. The goal is to help society understand what veganism is and to lower bad perceptions on the difficulties of being a vegan.
Graphic credit: https://veganuary.com/blog/veganuary-2019-the-results-are-in/
The graphic above shows the results of the campaign in 2019, resulting in a quarter million people pledging a vegan lifestyle. This is a rapid rise compared to the first year of the campaign in 2014 where 3,300 people pledged.
Possibly one of the biggest reasons contributing to the vegan growth movement is the development of vegan meats over the past few years. The mimicking of meats, especially beef, requires a lot of research and development to ensure the taste and texture are properly achieved. One example of how this is being done is through the fast food chain Burger King, which is introducing the “Impossible Whopper” in cooperation with Impossible Foods. Impossible Foods, an American based company founded in 2011, specializes in developing meat alternatives through soy and yeast products. It became infamous for its ground beef alternatives for burgers, which look, taste, and are textured to that of traditional meat through genetic engineering. The difference between Impossible Foods and other producers for vegan meat is their focus about the production to imitate minced beef.
By replicating the texture of minced beef, the company hopes to get more people to join the movement as well as appealing more to traditional meat eaters.
Image credit: https://impossiblefoods.com/foodservice/
A traditional beef burger is known for its taste, smell and texture, and is created by different proteins. Where many of these proteins contribute to the "beefy" experience, the protein myoglobin specifically gives the full experience. Myoglobin contains the molecule "heme", which gives the iron taste when eating meat.
Myoglobin is opened up by the heat when beef is cooked, releasing heme, which creates other reactions that underline the typical meat taste and odor. Many researchers identify these reactions that create the compelling taste and smell of beef are what make it so hard for meat lovers to find alternatives. Impossible Foods took this as its challenge, creating a patty that not only mimics the texture of ground beef to incorporate the traditional taste and smell of minced beef for an ever-growing population while reducing the overall food production imprint. In the picture below you can see the difference of the Impossible Burger and a normal beef burger focusing on resources and pollution on the planet.
Soy plants naturally contain heme in their roots, allowing the scientists of Impossible Foods a way to develop their product. However, the natural occurrence of heme in soy is low, thus the Impossible Foods scientists developed a unique yeast fermentation, resulting in higher amounts of heme. Since the Impossible Burger is created for meat lovers, they also created the “juiciness” that is enjoyed when pressing together a burger and the chewiness from eating ground beef. The end result? The Impossible Burger.
By using science with new development, the food industry is changing our eating options, attracting new food habits, and converting more people towards a plant-based lifestyle.