Entrepreneurs

We tried the plant-based ‘impossible burger’ that’s backed by Bill Gates

The plant-based "Impossible Burger" that has the tech world talking was finally made available at New York restaurant Momofuku Nishi this week, and CNBC got a sneak peek.

Several staffers had the meatless burger for lunch and gave their verdict. Most thought it was delicious and could pass for real meat, while some others said the texture and taste didn't quite compare to the real thing.

The start-up behind the food invention, Impossible Foods, has raised $182 million in equity since launching in 2012. It has been reported that Google attempted to buy the company, offering between $200 million and $300 million. Among its high-profile investors is Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

"Making meat a better way" is how Stanford University biologist and physician Patrick Brown describes his Impossible Burger.

The founder and CEO of California-based start-up Impossible Foods expounded on the benefits and the complex process of recreating the experience of meat using only plant-based ingredients.

"Our challenge was to make a product that would appeal to the hardcore meat lover," Brown told CNBC's "Squawk Box" in a March 2015 interview. "We wanted to have a product that would deliver all the pleasures that people get from eating meat without any of the baggage; no cholesterol, antibiotics, hormones, [or] E. coli."

On his personal blog, Gates expressed concern about providing meat to what's expected to be 9 billion people by 2050. "We can't ask everyone to become vegetarians. That's why we need more options for producing meat without depleting our resources," he wrote in March of 2015.

That's a sentiment shared by Brown, who said animal farming "is the single biggest environmental threat in the world today," given the enormous amounts of land and water needed.

He hopes one day to replace all products that use animal farming.

A cheeseburger by Impossible Foods made from plants.
Source: Impossible Foods

"Figuring it out was hard; making it actually was a relatively simple process," Brown said. "We use simple ingredients from plants that you could pretty much find in your local supermarket."

"We deliberately select out very specific proteins from plants — this is something that hasn't really been done before for food — that have the exact properties we need," he added.

Brown and his team examined animal products at the molecular level, then selected specific proteins and nutrients from greens, seeds, and grains to recreate the taste and texture of meat and dairy products.

"Every molecule in our burger," he said, "is something found in nature."

This is an updated version of an article that was previously published, with additional reporting by Marguerite Ward.