One wouldn’t think that an animal rights group like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) would have a beef with a company that makes plant-based protein products, but that is what has happened.

PETA, on its website, posted a blog titled “Why It’s Impossible for PETA to Get Behind the Impossible Burger.” That blog, as the headline implies, explains exactly why PETA is against Impossible Foods.

Use of laboratory rats

While Impossible Foods, the maker of the Impossible Burger, proudly proclaims on its website “We found a way to make meat using plants, so that we never have to use animals again,” PETA found that at least one species of animals was used. The animals weren’t used as an ingredient for the food, but they were used to assure the product was safe for human consumption.

In other words, laboratory rats were used to test the Impossible Burger.

It’s a move PETA alleges was done in disregard of PETA’s advice and that there was “no need to hurt and kill animals to test its burger.”

Impossible Foods CEO responds

The fact that PETA would attack a meat alternative company apparently caught the attention of the Associated Press (AP).

And in the AP report on the NewsOK website, Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown disputed the claim that there was no need to use rats.

“To get the FDA to sign off on our GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status, we had to do a test using rats,” Brown said. 

A big part of Impossible Foods’ claims of superiority to traditional meat and poultry is that it is more environmentally friendly to produce such products. While the accuracy of those claims is, at best, questionable, Brown is sticking with that belief, and Brown told the AP that it places the welfare of the planet ahead of the welfare of a few rats.

He said PETA believed, "it doesn't matter how much better it is for the world, you just can't do these experiments on rats.” But his beliefs are different. He admitted that he hated using rats, but still asserted “it was the right thing to do.”

Disagreement good for animal agriculture

PETA didn’t stop at attacking Impossible Foods for its use of rats. It also blasted the company for its use of heme, which comes from soy leghemoglobin. PETA claims that heme contains more iron than red meat, and therefore consumption of the Impossible Burger puts you at higher risk for cancer than consumption of meat.

So that can be considered an endorsement for eating meat instead of the Impossible Burger. And singling out red meat as containing iron while not making any mention of poultry would leave people to conclude that of the three, poultry is the heathiest choice.

It was said at the 2018 Chicken Marketing Summit that chicken is served at 96 percent of restaurants, compared to just 36 percent of restaurants that offer some version of vegetarian apps, entrées or sides.

It may not realize it, but PETA’s denunciation of Impossible Foods could very well assure that traditional meat and poultry continues to dominate restaurant menus.