Since its inception in Hamburg, Germany at the turn of the 19th century, burgers have carved a place in the hearts and stomachs of citizens around the world. Nowadays, you can find burgers virtually everywhere. In hole-in-the-wall diners, in the drive-thru windows of fast food joints, and even in Michelin-starred restaurants. Despite its German origins, the burger has essentially become the symbol of American sustenance and if it were up to the American people, they’d keep its glorious, meaty persona intact.

However, as a developing society, we’re constantly trying to evolve and improve our technology and our way of living in general. We constantly upgrade our cell phones to have the latest technology, we do the same with cars, and we’re always on the hunt for the most cutting edge innovations. So why wouldn’t we do the same with our food?

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As people start to see the detrimental impacts our daily habits have on the environment, it becomes evident that there is a lot that we could be doing better. We need to shift our energy sources from oil and coal to solar and wind, we need to figure out a way to clean up our oceans, and we have to create food that doesn’t diminish our finite natural resources but sustains them. The latter issue is one that has been getting major buzz in the food world, and rightly so. As a society, we’ve never been more aware of the vast resources required to produce meat, the negative impacts consumption has on our health, and the complex issue of animal welfare that goes hand in hand with its existence.

And yet, despite all of these factors, meat consumption is expected to rise by one percent next year. And the reason is pretty evident: people love meat. For most people, meat is tightly intertwined with family, tradition, and nourishment. People do not want to be inconvenienced by having to think of alternatives that provide the same protein. And frankly, they love the rich and juicy taste of a burger and do not want to give it up.

So how can we possibly tackle the problem of meat consumption when people so clearly do not want to remove burgers from their diets? Simple. Create a burger that looks, tastes, feels, and cooks like meat but is actually not made of meat! This is a tall order, to say the least, but there are already some American companies leading the way with this endeavor, and doing everything they can to prevent the world from upping its already too-high meat consumption.

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Take Beyond Meat, for instance. After creating meat-free chicken strips, “ground beef” crumbles, and a frozen veggie burger, the company set its eye on creating a burger so delicious it could rival the traditional version on its own turf, aka the meat counter. The plant-based patty sold out in just one hour.

Then there’s Impossible Foods, who after diligently researching what exactly makes a burger so delicious (turns out it’s an iron-containing molecule called heme), concocted a patty that sizzles, cooks, and even bleeds like a meat-based one. While the burger hasn’t yet reached restaurant tables, considering restauranteur and founder of Momofuku, David Chang, gave the product his seal of approval, we’d say it’s definitely something worth trying when it does.

“A whole new conscious food economy is rising, consisting of companies that are working to disrupt our food system by offering healthier, more sustainable foods. We’re undoubtedly at an exciting point in history where concrete steps are finally being taken to focus on solutions that have the power to shape the future of food,” said Nil Zacharias, Co-Founder of One Green Planet, ” In this case, it is a future that can not only feed our population as it grows to nine billion by 2050, but also do it in a manner that uses less of our planet’s finite resources, drastically cuts down our carbon footprint and gives thousands of species a fighting chance for survival.”

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Whether or not these companies will succeed at getting people to rethink meat is yet to be seen but they are most certainly giving the venture everything they’ve got. One thing is for sure, though, given the current impact of meat on the environment, if we want to be keep burgers as the symbol of American food culture come fifty years, they’ll have to be vegan. Thankfully, if these companies are any indication, they will still taste darn good.

Image Source: Buffalo Tempeh Burger