by Kate Rose
“We are not in this to create “healthy” food. We are trying to save the planet.”1
- Impossible Foods
Consumers are becoming more conscious of the effects their choices are having on the health of the planet, and are switching to faux meat alternatives, such as Impossible Foods’ meat substitutes, to reduce their impact on the environment. So what are the consequences of this solution?
Impossible Foods’ Mission
Impossible Foods now offer a range of products to mimic the taste and mouth feel of real meat. Products currently available are, Impossible Beef, Sausage, Chicken, Pork, Meatballs, and Meal Bowls. These products are available at both restaurants and grocery stores.
According to the Impossible Food’s website, their goal is “To drastically reduce humanity’s destructive impact on the global environment by completely replacing the use of animals as a food production technology. We intend to accomplish this mission within two decades by creating the world’s most delicious, nutritious, affordable and sustainable meat, fish and dairy foods directly from plants.”2
There is no question that industrially raised meat and poultry cause massive destruction to the global environment. The livestock also endure cruel lives in unnatural conditions and are never given the compassion and respect they deserve.
Impossible Foods is realistic as they understand many consumers are not going to give up their favorite fast-food meals and switch to a diet of organic, whole foods overnight (and probably never will), so they have offered a clever solution that satisfies people’s tastes and is better for the planet.
But is replacing animal protein with highly processed faux meat a healthy and sustainable solution for the future of the planet and our species? Is it necessary to “completely replace” the use of animals as a “food production technology”, wiping out regenerative farms and destroying the livelihood of farmers, rural communities, and many others in the process? Has the signature ingredient in Impossible Food’s beef product been rigorously tested and proven safe for human consumption? The answer is no, and here’s why:
Impossible Products Are Not Healthy for Consumers or the Planet
Below are the ingredients in each Impossible Foods product currently available. (All ingredients in red could be GMO OR sprayed with glyphosate herbicides):
Below are some of my concerns with these ingredients:
- The primary ingredient in all Impossible Foods products is Genetically Modified (GM) soy. Impossible Foods claims that “Using protein from genetically engineered soy that has been approved by the FDA, USDA, and EPA is a big part of what makes this mission even possible.”3 However, studies have shown that GM soy can cause organ damage in animals4 and is significantly different from non-GMO soy.5
- Impossible Foods uses a GM yeast-derived protein soy leghemoglobin (“SLH”) to give their ground beef products a meat-like taste and color. Up to a quarter of the heme ingredient used by Impossible Foods to give their products meat-like taste and color is composed of 46 “unexpected” additional proteins, some of which are unidentified and none of which were assessed for safety in the dossier.6
- A new animal study commissioned by Impossible Foods in 2017 on the SLH used in their ground beef products raises concerns about the safety of this ingredient for human consumption. The study, conducted over a period of only 28 days on an entire group of 80 rats (comprising 4 groups of 10 rats per sex per group), found that SLH caused statistically significant changes in weight gain, changes in the blood that can indicate the onset of inflammation or kidney disease, and possible signs of anaemia in the rats. The change in the health of rats fed SHL compared to the health of rats in the control group over such a short period is concerning and does not address the potential long-term health effects of consuming the novel ingredient. The study also found an apparent change in the reproductive cycle of female rats fed SLH. However, a second study commissioned by Impossible Foods found no effect of the SLH on the rats’ estrus cycle7 8. Although the 2017 study is statistically weak due to its short duration and the low number of animals in each group, it is a red flag. More rigorous studies are urgently needed to assess the safety of SLH for human consumption.
- The GM soy, and potentially many other ingredients in Impossible Foods products, are sprayed with glyphosate herbicides. Impossible Foods asserts that they regularly test samples of their soy for glyphosate and hundreds of other pesticides, and the results have always been well below any levels of safety concern as established by federal and intergovernmental regulatory agencies like the EPA, the FAO/WHO, and the EFSA.7 However, the fact is, no amount of glyphosate is safe.8 Furthermore, glyphosate is never used as a sole ingredient is always part of a formula containing other ingredients or “adjuvants”. Studies have shown that the full herbicide formulations may be up to 1,000 x more toxic than glyphosate alone.9
- By being genetically engineered to withstand toxic chemicals, GM soy farming decreases soil microbes10, organic matter and nutrients in the soil. This reduces carbon sequestration11, and increases greenhouse gasses.
- Impossible Products contain seed oils in the form of sunflower oil and soybean oil. Seed oils are high in Omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and linoleic acid. These acids oxidize easily, particularly when heated, producing free radicals that play a role in many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. While Omega 6 and linoleic acid are essential for health, we far exceed our daily requirements when consuming seed oils.12
- Soy contains the isoflavonoid genistein, which studies show has “detrimental effects on the male reproductive system and on the progression and sustenance of pregnancy, with more pronounced adverse impact in males, particularly when exposed in utero”13.
Impossible Products are Not Better for the Environment than Regeneratively Raised Proteins, Including Beef
Impossible Foods compares its products to industrially raised meat, where animals exist in a confined feeding lot, are fed an unnatural diet, and are given antibiotics and growth hormones. However, Impossible Foods fails to compare its products to organic grass-fed, grass-finished beef and pastured pork and poultry produced by holistic, regenerative farms that do not give their livestock antibiotics and growth hormones. As a consequence of this lack of comparison, which seems to be quite a common oversight, many consumers are ignorant to the fact that there is a massive difference between industrialized meat production and livestock raised on regenerative farms, including the toxic load of the meat, treatment of the livestock, and the impact each farming method has on the planet.
A growing body of peer-reviewed evidence shows that properly managed livestock can have a net-positive impact on the grassland ecosystem, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, and rural communities. Unlike commodity monoculture farms (including GM soy crops), holistic regenerative agriculture is good for the planet and honors the symbiotic relationship between the soil, plants, and animals.
White Oak Pastures, a regenerative, zero waste farm in Bluffton, Georgia is an excellent example of a successful regenerative farm. This farm reduces atmospheric carbon by sequestering carbon in the soil, which, in turn, benefits every other natural cycle on the farm. You can learn more about how White Oak Pastures regenerates the land here:
In 2019, White Oak Pastures engaged Quantis to conduct an independent Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) on their beef production14 15. The LCA showed that White Oak Pastures’ beef production sequesters more carbon than it emits. In comparison, a LCA prepared by Quantis for Impossible Foods in that same year showed the Impossible Burger was a net carbon emitter.16
Later that year, Mr. Will Harris, owner of White Oak Pastures, invited Mr. Pat Brown, CEO and Founder of Impossible Foods, to visit White Oak Pastures and see for himself how a holistic, regenerative farm operates.17
I confirmed with Mr. Harris that, as of September 2022, Mr. Brown has not yet taken him up on this offer to visit the farm and that the invitation still stands. I had the opportunity to spend a few days at White Oak Pastures last year to learn more about how the farm operates and see the diverse ecosystem it supports. This experience deepened my appreciation and respect for holistic and regenerative land management. I hope that Mr. Brown and his scientists leave their laboratory and do the same.
It’s Not Just About Protein
Impossible Foods claims “Impossible Burger is comparable in nutrition to 80/20 ground beef — it contains 19g of protein and is an excellent source of iron. But unlike beef, it has 0 mg of cholesterol and 14g of total fat (35% less than 80/20 ground beef!), and 8g of saturated fat per 4oz serving. It also contains no animal hormones or antibiotics.” 18
The reality is beef is nutritionally superior to an Impossible Burger. Beef contains carnitine, choline, carnosine, zinc, heme iron, selenium, and B12 not found naturally in highly processed artificial meats like Impossible’s products. These nutrients are vital for optimal human health and our children’s development. Replacing real meat with fake alternatives containing synthetic nutrients will be a disaster for the health of our children and future generations. Furthermore, according to Dr. Paul Saladino, the leading authority on the science and application of animal-based nutrition, there are currently no interventional studies that show consuming red meat is damaging to human health.19 20
Another essential fact that Impossible Foods appears to have overlooked is that many people consume high-quality animal foods to heal their bodies, especially those with sensitivities to phytoalexins which can trigger autoimmune conditions. Depriving people of the ability to source high-quality animal foods will make healing very difficult for them.
In conclusion, some will continue to argue that the Impossible’s products are a better solution for the planet's health than conventionally raised animal proteins. However, these products are still very damaging to the environment and are a short-term band-aid solution at best. The damage to the soil, air, waterways, human health and environment from the farming practices utilized to grow GMO crops is incalculable and immeasurable in comparison to Regenerative Organic farming. Faux meat is also unhealthy and will only worsen the amount of illnesses, infertility, and other issues people suffer from today.
Replacing regeneratively raised meat with faux meat is another form of corporate and government overreach. Whether you are vegan, carnivore, or somewhere in between, the solution to satisfy our dietary requirements while healing ourselves and the planet lies in food production that works in harmony with nature and reduces waste. However, with so many people blinded by corporate and government propaganda that supports and subsidizes a highly-processed diet, whether it be faux meat, processed cereals, or snack foods, this is no easy task.
You can do your part as consumers, parents, and healers by staying informed, making better choices, and encouraging others to do the same.
Kate Rose is an Intuitive Transformational Coach and founder of Kate Rose Wellness. She combines energy healing with her extensive knowledge and experience in holistic living to help people transform their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.
11 https://foe.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/PecticidesSoilHealth_Final-1.pdf https://www.zeroacre.com/blog/linoleic-acid-facts