Cookout of the Future?

Summer is almost here! One of the best ways to enjoy the warmer weather is to grill up some juicy burgers at a barbecue. You take a bite. It looks like a burger. It tastes like a burger. But it’s made of plants!

Thanks to science, food companies have created meat alternatives that look and taste just like real meat. Some are made from plants. Others are made from animal cells.

Eating real meat has some drawbacks, says Matt Ball. He works for the Good Food Institute, where he helps companies develop animal-free products. He says that compared with meat products, meat alternatives require fewer resources, like land, water, and animal feed. For instance, it takes 625 gallons of water to produce one hamburger. It takes only about 3 gallons to make a meatless Impossible Burger. And no animals need to be killed to make meat alternatives.  

Read on to find out more about meat alternatives that you could grill this summer and in the near future.


Americans eat 50 billion hamburgers each year. The company Impossible Foods has created a plant-based burger that includes a molecule called heme. Heme is rich in iron and is found in all plants and animals. There’s a lot of heme in red meat, giving it its signature flavor. Impossible Foods inserts a gene into a single-celled organism called yeast. The yeast then makes heme. This heme is added to the meatless Impossible Burger to give it a meaty flavor.

And in 2013, scientists revealed the first hamburger made from cow stem cells. Stem cells are types of cells that can turn into other types of cells, like muscle, blood, or brain cells. The burger cost a whopping $250,000 to make! The company Mosa Meat is working on cutting costs and hopes to release an affordable burger in the next three to four years.


The protein in Beyond Sausage comes from a blend of peas, beans, and rice. Once it’s mixed together, it gets mashed up into a texture that’s similar to meat. Then a machine stuffs it into an algae-based casing. This meat alternative packs more protein than a pork sausage.


Chicken is the most popular meat in the U.S. The average American eats about 90 pounds each year. But a chicken product made by growing animal cells in a lab could be coming to your grill any day now. The company Memphis Meats revealed the first chicken meat made from lab-grown chicken cells in 2017. Food testers say the meat alternative tastes just like the real thing.



Scientist Giuseppe Scionti, from Barcelona, Spain, is using a 3-D printer to print steak. The meat alternative is made from vegetable protein. Scionti prints the fibers of the steak to give it a texture that is close to real steak. The meat alternative isn’t sold in stores yet.

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