With plant-based burgers on every store shelf and restaurant menu, we can safely say that if anyone is looking for an alternative to ground beef, they don’t have to look far. But what about those whole cuts of meat that take center plate at steakhouses and during celebratory at-home dinners? Is it a stretch to imagine a succulent filet mignon, made without harming animals or the planet?
If anyone can imagine a world where all animal products have a viable plant-based alternative it’s Patrick O. Brown, founder of Impossible Foods—one of the companies responsible for making beef-identical plant-based burgers the norm. And he has vegan filet mignon on his mind.
At the recent MIT Technology Review’s Climate Tech conference, Brown revealed that an Impossible Filet Mignon prototype is in the works and, if he does say so himself, the vegan steak is “pretty damn good.”
Impossible Foods sets sights on vegan steak
When can we get a taste of Impossible Filet Mignon? It might be a while. The company is not releasing the plant-based steak until it can compete with its animal counterpart in every way that matters to consumers—an approach it took with its Impossible Burger, which it developed and perfected over the course of several years.
In fact, Brown first teased the vegan steak when he unveiled the 3.0 version of the Impossible Burger at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in 2019—where the burger was the first food product ever featured at the show.
There, Brown explained that, despite releasing the Impossible Burger as its flagship product, the company did set out to create ground beef. Instead, it was focused on developing a technology platform that could be applied to create plant-based alternatives to a wide variety of animal products, including chicken, fish, and whole cuts like steak.
“The next categorically new product that we launch will most certainly be a beef steak,“ Brown said at the conference. “[Steak] has huge symbolic value. If we can make just an awesomely delicious world-class steak … that will be very disruptive, not just to the beef industry, but to other sectors of the meat industry.”
Since then, the company has broken into several categories, namely pork and chicken. In 2020, Impossible Foods revealed a prototype for a dairy-identical “functional” milk that retained its integrity when poured into a hot beverage. This unnamed milk product has yet to be commercialized.
Vegan meat gets into whole cuts
Impossible Foods is not the only company looking to develop plant-based alternatives to whole cuts of meat. Its leading competitor, Beyond Meat, is already showcasing what it can do with vegan steak in a partnership with Taco Bell that put Beyond Carne Asada on the menu at 46 test locations in the Dayton, OH area last week.
Beyond Meat is also getting ready to release Beyond Steak, its first whole-cut vegan meat in the retail sector. Like Impossible’s founder Brown, Beyond Meat CEO and founder Ethan Brown was also impressed by his team’s development of Beyond Steak, saying the sliced plant-based steak is “probably one of our best products to date,” during The Wall Street Journal’s Global Food Forum in June.
Beyond Meat is simultaneously expanding its plant-based chicken offerings with the launch of Beyond Popcorn Chicken alongside its forthcoming vegan steak. “Our commitment to rapid and relentless innovation means we’re always working to bring the world’s best plant-based meat products to market to increase accessibility to delicious, nutritious, and sustainable plant-based proteins,” a Beyond Meat spokesperson recently told VegNews.
Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have become leaders in the plant-based meat space but others have focused on whole cuts from the start. This includes European import Juicy Marbles, which launched a realistic plant-based filet mignon in the United States last year. This vegan marbled steak is made by layering soy protein into linear fibers using the Meat-o-matic Reverse Grinder TM 9000, its patent-pending (and playfully named) technology to reverse-engineer animal meat and improve upon it in terms of flavor longevity, juiciness retention, crust development, and nutrition profile.
Israel’s Redefine Meat is also using proprietary 3D-printing technology to create its realistic New-Meat vegan steaks. This month, the company entered a strategic partnership with Europe’s largest importer of high-end meat Giraudi Meats which will massively expand the distribution of its whole-cut vegan meats across Europe.
And Canadian company Urbani Foods—previously known for its animal-based meats—is launching a vegan ribeye that mimics the marbling and texture of a premium butcher shop style steak. Called “Misteak,” the whole-cut meat will be available at specialty grocers and high-end restaurants this fall.
All of these companies share a goal to lessen humanity’s dependence on the destructive practice of animal agriculture, with Impossible Foods’ goal being more concretely defined as creating plant-based alternatives to every animal product by 2035.