Vegan Gray Areas: The Impossible Whopper

Yesterday was the day when the Impossible Whopper premiered in all U.S. Burger King locations. There are several reasons why the vegan-ess of Impossible Meat is in question and separate concerns over the preparation of the Whoppers themselves (not to mention the larger health and financial ramifications). 

I ordered one of these sandwiches today (no mayo or cheese). I’ve heard Impossible meat is the most like the real thing and I wanted to see for myself.

I’d like to first address the concerns of the preparation of the Whoppers in the Burger King restaurants. The major issue is the fact that these burgers will be prepared on the same grill as all the other burgers. This means the Impossible meat will be “contaminated” from coming into contact with the same surface (including grease and possibly small chunks of real meat), which arguably renders the burger not even vegetarian. This is definitely a legitimate concern if there’s an allergy involved. I’ve also heard that people who have been vegan a long time can get stomach aches if they eat something non-vegan. From what I’ve read, this is possible, but I’m not sure if the trace amounts you’d be eating in this situation would be enough to trigger these issues. (Assuming the person ordered the sandwich without cheese or mayonnaise to make it otherwise vegan.)

If you’re someone who chose to become vegan for health reasons, you’re very aware that a food is not necessarily healthy just because it’s vegan. Point being, the Impossible Whopper is hardly a health food, but for people who went vegan for other reasons, this is not particularly relevant. People who eat junk food aren’t necessarily bad vegans, they simply have different motivations than purely health-related. Also, some vegans may live a generally healthy lifestyle, but enjoy occasionally indulging a little bit. You know, just like “normal” people do.

This is what it looked like when I opened up the package. It’s not as pretty as in the advertisements, but they never are. I didn’t have a regular whopper to compare it to, but I’m guessing they look pretty much the same from how I remember them.

Now to address the Impossible Meat itself. The ingredients themselves are 100% plant-based, this is not in dispute. The issue that’s left some vegans uncomfortable in supporting this is due to an occurrence of animal testing that was required for their key ingredient, heme. Here is a portion of the statement from Impossible Foods:

“So in 2014, we submitted extensive data (which did not include rat testing), to an academic panel of food safety experts… Based on this data, the panel unanimously concluded that our key ingredient is ‘generally recognized as safe,’ or GRAS… The FDA reviewed the data and had some questions. To address them, we conducted additional tests. It is industry standard to perform rat feeding studies to demonstrate that a food ingredient is not toxic and is safe; most companies that submit a GRAS notification to the FDA include tests that use animals as subjects…

But we were confronted with an agonizing dilemma: We knew from our research that heme is absolutely essential to the sensory experience meat lovers crave. Replacing animals in the diets of meat lovers would absolutely require heme. So without the rat testing, our mission and the future of billions of animals whose future depends on its success was thwarted. We chose the least objectionable of the two choices available to us.

We designed the study rigorously so that it would never have to be done again. We used the minimum number of rats necessary for statistically valid results. Before conducting our rat test, we carefully screened testing companies and selected the one with the most humane practices. We sought advice from many sources to make sure we chose the testing lab with the best record for humane practices and carefully specified the most humane handling, testing and housing practices available without compromising the test…

Avoiding the dilemma was not an option… We hope we will never have to face such a choice again, but choosing the option that advances the greater good is more important to us than ideological purity.”

From <https://impossiblefoods.com/if-pr/the-agonizing-dilemma-of-animal-testing/>

This is what it looked like inside. I did apply some vegan mayo to it when I got home. To me, it tasted very much like a regular whopper. This isn’t something I would eat regularly because I try to avoid fast food in general. However, I would enjoy having this as an option for every once in a while.

To me, this is a perfectly reasonable position. Looking at the big picture, I think dramatically more animals will benefit from their decision than were harmed. People who disagree are obviously free to not eat or support Impossible Foods and that’s fine. Many people who would eat the burger itself without issue don’t want to financially support Burger King because of how much animal suffering props up their industry and that’s fine too. That being said, I want the Impossible Whopper to succeed. I want non-vegans to try it out of curiosity and decide vegan food might not be so bad after all. I want these big industries to see a demand for vegan options and for that to drive them to supply those options. I want vegans with a craving to have a plant-based version of their old favorite comfort foods. And I want our culture to move towards normalizing veganism instead of treating it like a fringe trend. In the end, I truly believe The Impossible Whopper is helping to move us in that direction.

Sources:

6 thoughts on “Vegan Gray Areas: The Impossible Whopper

    1. We don’t have one of those around here, but I did have the opportunity to try the Impossible meat at Qdoba. I enjoyed that too. I will say I was pleasant surprised that it didn’t provoke any other cravings. I ate and enjoyed it, but felt perfectly content going back to my normal way of eating afterwards. 😊

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      1. Our daughter talked my wife into becoming a vegan and I’m “going along for the ride”.

        It’s been about 6 months and, oddly enough, I haven’t noticed myself having to ignore any cravings….even after eating the Impossible meat.

        Liked by 1 person

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