Plant-based meat: Wholesome food, science experiment—or both?

Credit: Amy Lombard/New York Times
Credit: Amy Lombard/New York Times

Makers of plant-based meat deal with a constant balancing act between promoting their products as simple, wholesome food and also extolling the amount of science and technology that goes into them. Impossible Foods recently hired a new chief science officer who will spend a lot of time advancing that science while also working to convince more scientists that food is the most interesting and important problem they can work on.

“Firstly, I’m a discovery scientist and curiosity-driven researcher,” says John D. York, who is joining Impossible from his current post as biochemistry chair at Vanderbilt University, with previous experience as an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “The other aspect of my life, since childhood, is that I’ve been a foodie and love the science of food.”

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But he knows that neither modernist cuisine simpatico nor a shared love for the perfect Ligurian focaccia is going to attract the 50 or so scientists that Impossible wants to hire to work on projects that will show the plant-based movement isn’t just a bunch of burgers and sausages.

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“It’s simple,” says Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown. “We are working on the most urgent and important science and engineering project: climate change and a catastrophic collapse of biodiversity. The use of animals in food tech is by far the most destructive technology in human history.”

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