Air New Zealand is serving the faux meat 'Impossible Burger' to business class passengers

SuppliedThe Impossible Burger
  • Plant-based US startup Impossible Foods launched its plant-based burger two years ago and it became a cult hit.
  • It took six years to develop and mimics the smells, taste and texture of beef.
  • Air New Zealand’s the first airline to serve it, but local politicians have complained about it being an “existential threat” to the country’s main export – meat.

Air New Zealand has put a Silicon Valley-designed burger made from vegetables but tasting like meat on its menu between Los Angeles and Auckland.

The Impossible Burger, designed by Stanford University biochemistry professor Dr Patrick Brown, was developed over seven years with support from investors including Bill Gates. Brown’s company, Impossible Foods, uses genetic engineering to create plant-based faux meat substitutes. The patty, made from wheat, coconut oil, and potatoes, is designed to taste, smell and even “bleed” like meat, thanks to an iron-containing molecule called heme, which comes from the roots of soy plants.

When it was first introduced two years ago, it became a cult hit after chef David Chang put it on the menu at his New York restaurant Momofuku Nishi. It’s now in 2500 restaurants across the US.

Earlier this year Impossible Foods raised another $US114 million, taking the total investment to $US396 million.

The airline is the first to serve the Impossible Burger mid-air, on its business menu on flights from Los Angeles to Auckland.

The first flight from LA, NZ5, landing in Auckland on July 3, ran out of burgers and an Air NZ spokesperson told Business Insider the the customer response “has been overwhelmingly positive”.

Air NZ’s Inflight Customer Experience Manager Niki Chave said the airline was “incredibly excited” about this partnership with Impossible Foods.

“We’re confident vegetarians, flexitarians and dedicated meat lovers alike will enjoy the delicious taste of the Impossible Burger, but for those who want to stay with the tried and true it will sit alongside our regular selection of menu items prepared by our talented culinary team and consultant chefs,” she said.

Air New Zealand plans to serve the Impossible Burger on flights NZ1 and NZ5 from Los Angeles, until late October, when it will reassess the project, but already plenty of Kiwis are unhappy with the news, including a bunch of politicians, such as New Zealand First’s primary industries spokesperson Mark Patterson called the burger an “existential threat” to the country’s $NZ9 billion red meat industry.

“We have Air New Zealand actively promoting synthetic proteins which have a genetic modification component to them. This is not a good example of New Zealand Inc working together for the greater good,” he said.

Nationals MP Nathan Guy was similarly unimpressed.

Their comments came just 48 hours after the NZ Ministry for Primary Industries released a major report into alternative proteins titled “The evolution of plant protein – assessing consumer response”.

It looked at the Impossible Burger as a case study, concluding “that this product is at the forefront of companies innovating and significantly improving meat replacement products, yet consumer sentiment analysis shows that further innovation is required to develop a product that is a large threat”.

The report warns there are risks in local agriculture being so heavily dependent on meat, which accounts for 60% of the country’s total exports, adding that “to take advantage of the new consumer trends towards plant-based foods and ‘flexitarian’ lifestyles, there are significant opportunities for New Zealand to expand and develop plant-based protein sources.”

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