The massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is famous for showcasing the latest in high-tech gadgetry, but this year what many attendees couldn't get enough of were the plant-based meat alternatives.
Impossible Foods Inc. of Redwood City, California propped up a tent in the CES pavilion this week to debut their new plant-based pork product, a substitute for ground pork being marketed as Impossible Pork and Impossible Sausage. It turns out that the cooked product closely resembles ground pork sausage both in seasoning and texture, and the product got good media reviews at the CES launch.
Last year, the company showed off its beef alternative, which was launched in 2016 and promoted at CES this year as a White Castle slider.
Tom Wickland, who is from the Chicago area, tried the imitation beef last year and liked it so much that he had to come back to sample the “pork” version, he said.
“Tastes like pork,” Wickland told Agri-Pulse as he bit into his bon mi-style sandwich. “Chews like pork, too.”
Wickland said he's drawn to the product because he feels it is another way of saving the environment while also reducing environmental costs.
Standing behind him in line was Bill Doyle, a Las Vegas local who teaches food studies at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Doyle’s curiosity came after he also tried the beef substitute last year. His interest comes from how the products fit into the food system.
“A food system is resource intensive, so if we can have things that are plant-based and attract not just vegetarians and vegans but also, omnivores – meat-eaters, that might likely be a good thing," he said.
Celeste Holz-Schietinger, top scientist at Impossible Foods ,told Agri-Pulse the company’s mission is to replace all of animal agriculture by 2035.
“Animal agriculture is the most destructive industry on our planet,” Holz-Schietinger asserted, citing the amount of land and water used for raising livestock and poultry as well as the carbon emissions and pollution associated with farming.
Schietinger said the company’s goal is to develop a product on the molecular level that gives the consumer the same experience as eating actual meat, only from plants.
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Pork producers are angry that the plant-based alternative is being marketed with the term "pork."
“Any adjective placed in front of the word pork can only refine it, not redefine it,” said Dan Kovich, director of science and technology for the National Pork Producers Council. “It's not pork. It's not pork sausage. It can't be labelled as such."
Holz-Shietinger defended the use of the term.
“When we think of a consumer, they think of meat as a sensory experience, Holz-Schietinger, said. “Pork from plants is the sensory experience. It’s not the fact that it comes from a dead animal.”
Wickland and Doyle also had no problem calling the product “pork” and thought the issue revolved around labeling and marketing the product rather than confusion.
“I think it’s sort of a silly issue. I think people are going to be aware of what they are eating and not be confused,” Wickland said.
But not everyone in line to taste Impossible Pork was ready to pick the plant-based alternative over the real thing.
“It’s really good, but I still feel like I can tell the difference,” Alec Bargas of Santa Clara, Calif., told Agri-Pulse.
Bargas said he would buy this product but if given the choice between real pork or the alternative, he said he would choose pork.
Later this month, Impossible Foods is launching “Impossible Sausage” at over 100 Burger King restaurants for a limited time in Georgia, Michigan, Illinois, New Mexico and Alabama.