Meet the Founder of Impossible Foods, Whose Meat-Free Burgers Could Transform the Way We Eat

On an otherwise unadorned table at an event space overlooking Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, glass bowls displayed the constituent parts of the Impossible Burger. One contained a B-vitamin-laced potato protein paste, another wheat protein, a third a globule of coconut oil. In a fourth, shimmering crimson under the ceiling lights, was the secret sauce: heme (or haem), a component of many proteins, including hemoglobin — the pigment that gives blood its color. It’s also found in the roots of the soybean plant, which is where Impossible Foods extracts it from.

This unassuming display formed a sideshow at Thursday’s international launch of Impossible Foods’ eponymous meat-free burger, which, due to the use of heme, sears, smells, and even bleeds like its animal equivalent. Since the California company begun experimenting with a synthesis of these ingredients in 2011, founder Dr. Pat Brown has attracted over $300 million in funding, drawn an opening salvo from a powerful cattle industry lobby, and has had to rebut suggestions his product is unsafe as he sets about solving what he says is the “most important and urgent problem in the world.”

Read more: Silicon Valley and the Search for Meatless Meat

Now he’s in Hong Kong, making Impossible Foods’ first international foray. The semi-autonomous Chinese city consumes more meat per capita than anywhere else in Asia, and Brown has partnered with well known local chefs May Chow, who runs the trendy Little Bao restaurant, and Uwe Opocensky, of the Beef & Liberty burger chain, to spread the plant-based message.

Brown says he’s not interested in offering vegans another option; instead, he wants to win over omnivores with plant-derived products that are so delicious, nutritious, and affordable they completely replace meat from animals by 2035. Back in the U.S., Impossible Foods has spread to over 1,400 outlets, including the no-frills White Castle burger chain, where a slider sells for $1.99. But gaining a firm foothold in Asia, the world’s largest meat producer and the continent where demand for meat is growing the fastest, will be critical if Brown is to fulfill his mission.

TIME sat down with the Stanford biochemist to talk about food security, climate change, and what it would mean if the world stopped eating meat.

The Impossible Thai Burger by Uwe Opocensky, chef of Beef and Liberty. / Aria Hangyu Chen for TIME
Aria Hangyu Chen for TIME The Impossible Thai Burger by Uwe Opocensky, chef of Beef and Liberty

TIME: Impossible Foods wants to completely replace animals as a food production technology by 2035. Are you trying to build a business here, or save the world?

Dr. Pat Brown: Well, it’s both. I decided to found the company because I recognized that the use of animals as a food production technology is by far the most destructive technology on Earth. But we’re not going to address the problem by telling people to change their diet — that’s never going to work. Instead, we have to produce foods that consumers prefer over what they’re getting today from animals. And if we succeed in our environmental mission, we will be the biggest, most impactful business in history.

How environmentally destructive is the meat and dairy industry in its current form?

The use of animals as a food production technology is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation system. So, every ferry, car, bus, truck, train, airplane, and rocket ship put together is responsible for less greenhouse gas emissions than using animals to produce food. This technology uses more water and pollutes more water than any other technology by far. It also now occupies almost half of Earth’s entire land area, either for growing crops to feed animals or for grazing land. Livestock has essentially pushed all the diverse wildlife that used to exist on the planet to the edge of extinction. Cows alone far outweigh every other terrestrial mammal left on earth.

There’s some resistance to the idea of our food being engineered. How are you dealing with that?

There is this widely held view that the food that we get today is a product of nature and that Impossible Foods sits at an unusual intersection between science and food. But that’s completely wrong. The human species didn’t begin with a handbook that told it which parts of which plants and animals are healthy and nutritious to eat; that was something that needed to be discovered. Humans needed to figure out how to prepare those foods safely so that they weren’t going to cause fatal infections. And then they needed to figure out how to create foods that bring together delicious, nutritious parts from many plants and animals to create something that’s more than the sum of its parts. That’s research. That’s science. What we are doing is completely in that tradition. We’ve figured out a way to bring ingredients together to make something special that’s more than the sum of the parts.

What can Impossible Foods do to address world hunger and nutritional inequality?

The plant crops that are grown on earth today contain more protein, more calories, more of every essential amino acid, and of every nutrient that you need for good health, than would be required to feed 10 billion people in 2050. But humans have managed to take that abundance of nutrition and create a world where there’s still almost 1 billion people who don’t have enough protein in their diet and almost 2 billion who don’t have enough iron in their diet. That’s because we’ve squandered the nutrition provided by plants by turning it into animals. If Impossible Foods is successful, we solve the world’s biggest environmental problem, solve food security problems, and even reduce conflicts, most of which start over land and water. Compared to using cows to produce beef, our process uses 1/20th the land, a quarter of the water, and it is fundamentally a lot less expensive. That means that when we’ve achieved sufficient scale, we should be able to produce meats that are not only more delicious but more affordable. This will have a huge impact, particularly in places where protein, malnutrition, and iron deficiencies are common.

Tell us what you are working on now. I’ve heard there’s a fish replacement in the works?

Impossible Foods made the decision to start with raw ground beef as our first product because it’s the most popular single kind of meat in the U.S., and it’s iconic. But the technology platform is not at all focused on ground beef. In fact, we’ve learned how to make pork, chicken, and even fish flavors; we’ve figured out the basic chemistry and we have patents on those. Beef is the worst in terms of its destructive environmental impact, but fish is a close second. Right now, humans are absolutely strip-mining the oceans to meet the high demand for fish. The total population of fish in oceans and rivers and lakes is less than half of what it was 40 years ago and some species are down more than 90%. Demand is still going up, so fish is a super high priority for us.

What sort of societal changes might come about from fundamentally changing the nature of the relationship between humans and animals?

Right now, the dominant relationship between humans and animals is exploitative. Replacing animals as a food production technology will absolutely change that. Hopefully, rather than looking at animals essentially as a technology for producing food, we’ll appreciate them more for the role that they play in making this a beautiful planet to live on. The way human history progresses is that things that were commonplace for millennia get replaced by something completely different. Human sacrifice was popular in many religions a millennium ago; the horse went from being essentially the only mode of power transportation 200 years ago to being basically a pet now. The horse was just as deeply embedded in the culture as the cow is today — it took a couple of decades before it was obsolete. Better technology comes along and it’s a new game.

It’s easy to support your mission when we think about exploitative factory farms, but how about the hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers and herders who depend on raising animals?

We certainly don’t want to create hardships for people who depend on raising livestock for a living. But when new technologies come along people who support themselves based on the previous technology adapt. Not to say that there’s no disruption, but people find a new way to make it work. We want to be as constructive as possible. When we are expanding our production, we want to build our production facilities in the same communities that are currently supported by animal-based agriculture and meat production, and we want to do the best job we possibly can in minimizing the unintended consequences. We are competing in the global market, so farmers who are raising livestock for their own subsistence are not going to be affected.

Does Impossible Foods want to go interplanetary? Could your technology help humans colonize Mars?

Is our technology going to have a role in interplanetary colonization? Absolutely: it’s going to make it unnecessary. People are seriously talking about going to Mars as the only way to save human civilization from the catastrophic damage that we’re going to do to Planet Earth. Look at a picture of Mars: that is a really sucky planet compared to Earth! No one should ever want to go to Mars. There’s no air on Mars. And yet people are saying we’ve got to figure out a way to get to Mars so we can have a place to live when we’ve totally destroyed this planet. Well, the impact we’re going to have makes it unnecessary to go to Mars by saving this planet and keeping it habitable. We’ve got the best planet in the universe here. Let’s not ruin it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity

Southwest Cancels 40 Flights as It Works to Inspect Plane Engines After Deadly Explosion

Southwest Airlines cancelled about 40 flights Sunday as the airline stepped up efforts to inspect the engines of its Boeing 737 fleet on the heels of last week’s deadly engine explosion on Flight 1380.

The airline voluntarily announced inspections of engines in the CFM56 family – which powers nearly all of Southwest’s fleet – on Tuesday, after a passenger died when she was partially sucked out of an aircraft window that had been shattered in by the engine blast.

Inspectors now believe that the CFM56-7B jet engine failure occurred when one of the engine’s fan blades broke off and came loose. The mid-air incident forced the New York to Dallas flight to make an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport. CFM56-7B engines are the most common engines on Boeing 737s, which are the most common commercial aircraft in the world. Southwest’s entire fleet is made up of Boeing 737s.

“Today, we have only canceled about 40 flights due to fan blade inspections out of a planned schedule of almost 4,000 flights. The cancellations are minimal (1% of todays flights),” a Southwest spokesperson told TIME. “We have minimized flight disruptions this past week through actions such as proactive aircraft routings to cover open trips and utilizing spare aircraft, when available.”

Southwest said that the inspections were already scheduled and were not prompted by the Federal Aviation Administration’s order on Friday that “requires operators to inspect fan blades on certain CFM56-7B engines within 20 days.” The airline did, however, acknowledge the FAA’s directive on Twitter.

The announcement that Southwest was already accelerating its inspection process as a precautionary measure was posted by the airline last week: “The accelerated inspections are being performed out of an abundance of caution and are expected to be completed over the next 30 days.”

The FAA’s inspection order applies to CFM56-7B engines, specifically engines with more than 30,000 total cycles from new, the directive reads.

The FAA says that the engine manufacturer “estimates today’s corrective action affects 352 engines in the U.S. and 681 engines worldwide.”

Kushner Companies Has Been Subpoenaed as Part of a Probe Into False Housing Paperwork

(NEW YORK) — The Kushner Cos. confirmed Thursday it was subpoenaed by federal prosecutors for information related to an Associated Press report that the company filed dozens of false documents about its buildings in New York City.

The real estate company issued a statement saying it has “nothing to hide and is cooperating fully with all legitimate requests for information, including this subpoena.”

The statement said the federal subpoena came last month, just a day after the AP reported the Kushner Cos. routinely filed false paperwork with the city stating it had zero rent-regulated tenants in buildings across the city when, in fact, it had hundreds. The AP report covered a three-year period when the real estate company was run by Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law who is now a senior adviser.

Tenant advocates say such false filings allow landlords to avoid heightened city oversight designed to keep lower-paying, rent-regulated tenants from being harassed during construction and pressured to leave, freeing up apartments for higher-paying residents.

Kushner Cos. told the AP at the time of its report that the company outsources preparation of construction permit applications and fixes any mistakes immediately. Records show the company did file some amended documents, often more than a year later.

The AP report, based on work by nonprofit watchdog Housing Rights Initiative, has sparked an inquiry by the New York state attorney general’s office and a city council investigation.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Thursday that the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn had subpoenaed housing paperwork from the company. The office declined to comment to the AP

The Brooklyn attorney’s office also has reportedly subpoenaed the Kushner Cos. over a visa-for-investment program to raise money from Chinese investors for its real estate projects.

Amazon Has More Than 100 Million Prime Subscribers, Reveals Jeff Bezos

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed Wednesday that there are more than 100 million global subscribers to Amazon Prime, the company’s membership program.

“In 2017 Amazon shipped more than five billion items with Prime worldwide, and more new members joined Prime than in any previous year – both worldwide and in the U.S,” Bezos said in his annual letter to shareholders, which was published Wednesday. Amazon had not previously revealed the number of Prime members.

Bezos said more new Prime members joined on Prime Day 2017 than on any other day in the company’s history. That day also set a sales record for the e-commerce giant.

Prime members pay a monthly fee of $12.99 or an annual fee of $99, and receive access to free two-day shipping, free same-day delivery and Prime Video streaming, among other program benefits. Amazon expanded Prime to Mexico, Singapore, the Netherlands and Luxembourg in 2017, Bezos said.

President Trump’s Tariffs Are ‘Distorting’ Global Trade, E.U. Warns

(BRUSSELS) — Europe’s top trade official said Wednesday that new U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs are distorting global trade and could damage hopes for economic growth.

Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Union’s trade commissioner, also said the bloc would not offer any concessions in order to be exempt from the U.S. import duties ahead of a May 1 deadline in talks.

“We are a seeing a recovery and a potential growth in trade and global growth but it is threatened by these tariffs,” she told reporters in Strasbourg, France. “We can see already tendencies of distortion of trade that affects the EU as well.”

Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump slapped tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum, but granted the EU a temporary exemption until May 1. He also temporarily exempted big steel producers Canada and Mexico — provided they agree to renegotiate a North American trade deal to his satisfaction.

The EU has drawn up a list of “rebalancing” duties worth some 2.8 billion euros ($3.4 billion) to slap on U.S. products if it is not permanently excluded.

Describing the U.S. tariffs as “pure protectionism,” Malmstrom said the EU would not be strong-armed into giving up any sweeteners in exchange for a permanent exemption, amid rumors that Brussels might be preparing some kind of trade offer.

“We have not offered the U.S. anything. We are not going to offer them anything to get exceptions from tariffs that we consider are not in compliance with the WTO,” she said, referring to global trade’s governing body, the World Trade Organization.

“We expect to be permanently and unconditionally exempted from these measures,” said Malmstrom. She added that talks with Washington are continuing but that the EU has received no guarantees yet.

Malmstrom also expressed concern about trade tensions between the U.S. and China, describing a possible escalation as “something that could be very worrisome for the global economy.”

Her remarks came as the European Commission announced that it had wrapped up negotiations with Japan and Singapore on major trade and investment deals and that it hoped the new pacts can be endorsed by EU countries and enter force by late next year.

EU Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen hailed them as a victory for rules-based trade and the multilateral system.

“It’s always worrisome if any of our partners are willing to take unilateral action against us, or against any of us,” he said, but he noted that “support for multilateralism has strengthened recently because of unilateral actions.”

Starbucks Is Closing Thousands of Stores for Racial Bias Training. Here’s How Much Money It Could Lose

Starbucks is closing over 8,000 company-owned stores for racial bias training during an afternoon in May, the company announced Tuesday.

The news comes as the Seattle, Wash.-based firm is being criticized after two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks store after asking to use the restroom without making a purchase. The incident has led to protests and boycotts nationwide, while the manager involved in the situation has since left Starbucks’ Philadelphia location where the arrest took place.

“Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities,” said Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson in a statement Tuesday.

Closing thousands of stores could be costly for the company.

Starbucks-owned stores made about $4.7 billion in revenue over the most recent quarter, according to the company’s latest earnings report. Divide that by three, and you get about $1.6 billion per month. Divide again by 30, and you get about $53.3 million every day. Divide again by 24, and you get about $2.2 million every hour. So if you assume each company-owned Starbucks store will close for about four hours over a single afternoon, that’s roughly $8.8 million in revenue the company will potentially miss out on, by this admittedly back-of-the-envelope math.

It’s worth noting a couple of caveats: Not every company-owned Starbucks store will close, so this estimate may be slightly high. Meanwhile, some customers may simply wait until Starbucks re-opens to get their fix on the day of the closures, but as a self-identifying caffeine addict, I’d argue most people will just get their fix at a rival chain or local coffee shop.

But for Starbucks, the price may be worth paying. The company’s stock price and reputation have both suffered in the wake of the Philadelphia Starbucks arrest incident. Shutting down Starbucks stores is the kind of strong response from Johnson that might help restore the shaken trust and confidence between Starbucks, its customers, its employees, and its investors.

Starbucks Is Closing 8,000 Stores for Racial Bias Training After the Arrest of 2 Black Men

Starbucks will close more than 8,000 stores for one afternoon next month to hold racial bias trainings after two black men were arrested while waiting at a Philadelphia location, an incident that has prompted protests and calls to boycott the coffee giant.

More than 8,000 company-owned stores will close on the afternoon of May 29 to provide the training to nearly 175,000 employees, the company said in a press release on Tuesday. The training will “address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome,” per the company’s statement.

The two men were arrested on Thursday after Starbucks employees called 911 to report them for trespassing when they asked to use the restroom but were denied because they had not yet purchased anything, according to police. Their arrest was filmed by another patron, who said the men were waiting for a friend to arrive. The store manager involved in the situation no longer works at that Starbucks location, a spokesperson said.

“While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement.

“Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities.”

The training curriculum will be designed by civil-rights leaders and experts on combatting racial bias, including former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative; and Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

The U.S. Government Used Disney Cartoons to Convince Americans That Paying Taxes Is a Privilege

Before tax preparation software guided Americans through the process of filing tax returns before the Tax Day deadline — which falls on April 17 in 2018, though Tax Day is usually but not always April 15 — there were quacks like Donald Duck.

During World War II, the federal government needed an easily recognizable face to explain a process that was unrecognizable to many Americans at the time. As TIME previously reported, while the modern income tax was introduced in 1913, only the richest Americans paid it in the early years. That changed with the attack on Pearl Harbor, which prompted Congress to pass a new Revenue Act in 1942 to fund the U.S. war effort. The number of tax returns filed skyrocketed from 7.7 million in 1939 to 36.7 million in 1942, and about 50 million in 1945, according to the Tax Foundation, a tax-policy think tank.

So Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau tapped Walt Disney — who was already heavily involved in making films to boost the war effort — to crash-produce The New Spirit, a motivational film explaining income taxes to Americans in 1942.

In the clip, a voice coming from Donald Duck’s radio calls for “taxes to beat the Axis!” and reminds the cartoon icon that paying taxes should be seen as a privilege. Then, armed with a fountain pen, ink well and stamp, Donald Duck lists three dependents — his adopted nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie — and pays a $13 tax on his income of $2,501 made from his Hollywood acting.

TIME didn’t think the film’s explanation of how exactly to do taxes was “crystal clear,” but acknowledged that production was a rush job, completed in the record-short time frame of four weeks, rather than the usual six to eight months for such a project. However, “it gets its propaganda across with the anesthetic blessing of laughter and great good humor. As cinema, The New Spirit is a most effective job.” It also called “Yankee Doodle Spirit,” the brand-new score by Oliver Wallace (one of the composers of the 1941 Disney classic Dumbo) “a humdinger.”

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And it was a “phenomenal success,” the magazine conceded later. In fact, the results of the tax effort helped encourage Disney to become more broadly involved in educational videos, TIME explained:

What prompted this prolific pedagogy was the phenomenal success of his famed Donald Duck film on income-tax paying. The New Spirit, whose $80,000 cost Congress refused to pay. This film, made for the Treasury Department, played to 26,000,000 people, 37% of whom. Gallup-polled, said it animated their willingness to pay taxes…

Says FORTUNE: “In one respect Walt Disney is a man of almost godlike power, for there is literally no limit to the things he can create on the screen. He can set forth anything from a world in evolution to the whirling of electrons invisible to the human eye. He can produce a mosquito big enough to tower over a village. . . . He can get inside a complex machine, slow down its action, explain its operation to apprentices with a clarity impossible in any other medium.”

So it should be no surprise that a second video was created for 1943, showing Donald Duck’s taxes funding the manufacturing of “all kinds of guns,” dive bombers, battle ships and other weapons to “blast the aggressor from the sea.” Meanwhile a narrator booms, “Just remember, every dollar you don’t spend for something you don’t need is a dollar spent to help the Axis! That’s right. And every dollar you sock away for taxes is another dollar to sock the Axis.”

Today, though those PSAs may be defunct and tax day has since moved, the influence of that moment in tax history continues.