Progress is being made on a truly impossible-seeming area of plant-based meat products: steak. And not just any steak—filet mignon.
At MIT Technology Review’s ClimateTech event this afternoon, Impossible Foods founder Pat Brown shared that while he couldn’t give an exact date for when the company’s steak product will be ready for consumers to purchase, there is a prototype—and he tried it out himself earlier this year.
“I’ve tasted our filet mignon prototypes—and they’re pretty damn good,” Brown told senior climate and energy editor James Temple.
The mission of Impossible Foods is all about winning over meat eaters—not just by creating alternatives to meat that are more environmentally friendly, but by equaling and even exceeding real meat in terms of taste. Brown said the company isn’t going to release a product until it thinks it can compete against the equivalent animal product “head to head.”
The main challenge so far is getting the texture right. The company has had to adjust its process for producing ground beef to re-create the structure of steak, Brown said.
Impossible Foods first shared its ambitions to expand beyond ground meat, sausage, and chicken and into steak products with The Spoon in 2019, after debuting its Burger 2.0 at that year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Brown also spoke about Impossible’s big plans with Temple back in 2020, and dug into the challenges of creating an alternative steak:
[T]he characteristics of a really good steak? I think we have to have something with a very good version of that muscle structure and texture; you have to be able to create the right mechanical properties. It’s got some connective tissue, which is sort of a non-woven fabric of protein, and then it’s got the interstitial adipose tissue. And for the adipose tissue, the things that matter? Well, its mechanical properties matter to some extent, its melting behavior matters, and its flavor chemistry matters.
Since then, competitors have created their own prototypes for steak or announced their intentions to do so. Rival company Beyond Meat has already introduced its Beyond Steak product at Jewel-Osco grocery stores and is launching a Beyond Carne Asada Steak in partnership with Taco Bell this week at select restaurants.
Brown concluded that the real test will be not what he thinks of the filet, but what consumers do.
“Stay tuned,” he said. “It’s definitely coming.”
As for what else Impossible has planned, we’ll have to just guess—though it’s clear this isn’t the end of the line. As Brown said, “Anything you can imagine we might be working on, we’re working on.”
You can read more of Brown’s remarks, and catch up on the rest of the day, from our live blog here. ClimateTech, MIT Technology Review’s inaugural climate event, will be back for day two tomorrow.
Additional reporting by Amy Nordrum.
This piece has been updated.