September 11, 2020

Impossible Burger launches in Alberta, Canada



Plant-based Impossible Burger was launched at Charcut Roast House in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


The meat-like product is produced by Impossible Foods - a private food tech company based in Silicon Valley and founded by a Stanford University professor in 2011 - and aims to serve as an alternative to real meat. The company's lab came up with a way to isolate heme - a molecule that gives meat its delicious mouth-feel - by genetically engineering yeast. The result is a plant-based meat alternative that supporters said looks and tastes like meat. The Impossible Foods burger even "bleeds" like real meat.

Impossible Foods does not target vegan consumers but meat-lovers who would be open to reducing consumption of meat if there is a tasty alternative. According to Rachel Konrad, Impossible Foods' chief communications officer, their goal is to make plant-based alternatives so enticing and enjoyable to eat, that animal agriculture will no longer be required.


"If you really want to affect change and start a meaningful national and international dialogue, you have to be in places like Dallas and Calgary," said Konrad.

Charcut Roast House was the first restaurant in Calgary to offer the plant-based product on its menu, but more restaurant and retail locations are expected to be announced in the coming months.


A spokeswoman for Impossible Foods, which already rolled out its product at thousands of restaurants and grocery stores across the United States and Asia, said the company is well aware that the beef industry is an important part of Alberta's economy and that is precisely why it wanted to have a presence in the area.


"We know that Canadians are very eager to talk about the most existential question that our generation faces - which is global warming. You can't really have that dialogue unless you talk with, and exchange ideas with, ranchers and the beef industry." said Konrad.


"We do not plan to talk around it. Our mission as a company is precisely to eliminate the need for livestock and animals in agriculture.".


"Animal agriculture is one of the top causes of both global warming and biodiversity collapse . . . We cannot continue to make meat from animals without completely torching the planet." Konrad said.


Impossible Foods is the latest plant-based meat brand to launch in Canada amid what has been a rapid rise in popularity of meatless eating and veganism. Beyond Meat -- the Californian company whose pea protein-based product launched at A&W in 2018 -- started the craze.  The Beyond Meat burger was so popular that it was sold out after launch. Other chains quickly followed, and imitation meat products representing different brands are now offered in restaurants and grocery chains across Canada.


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the intergovernmental body of the United Nations, recommended reducing the consumption of meat to reduce the risks of climate change.


However, Bob Lowe, president of the Calgary-based Canadian Cattlemen's Association, said he takes issue with Impossible Foods' assertion that traditional cattle production brings harm to the environment. He said Alberta ranchers work hard to be good stewards of the environment and are responsible for preserving a significant amount of natural grassland that effectively serves as a carbon sink.


"If somebody wants to eat a plant-based burger, that's fine by me. But let's not say it's better environmentally because it's not," Lowe said.


For the Charcut co-owners Connie DeSousa and John Jackson, they do not see it as an either-or conversation.

"I don't think we would ever ask any of our customers to give up meat or ask our local ranchers to stop ranching. That's not our objective here," DeSousa said. "We want you to eat a (beef) burger on Monday and come in for an Impossible Burger on Tuesday."

Charcut's version of the Impossible Burger - a double-stack burger with fresh avocado, vine tomatoes, a garden-herb aioli with lettuce and crispy chips - was aiming for diners who are trying to eat more sustainably but also want something delicious, Jackson said.

"Are we going to see meat disappear of Charcut's menu? No. We're very meat-centric," he said. "We think of this as just meat that's been made with plants."

- Calgary Herald