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Impossible Pork captivated CES 2020: Here's everything you need to know about how it tastes and if it's healthy

Impossible Pork is designed to look, cook up and taste just like pork. Here's what we know, and what we don't.

impossiblepork

Impossible Foods unveils the other, other white meat this week at CES.

Abrar Al-Heeti/CNET
This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

Here comes the other faux white meat. Impossible Foods, the brand behind last year's Impossible Burger 2.0 craze, captivated the attention of CES 2020 by launching a plant-based pork replacement called Impossible Pork. The man-made pork substitute is designed for kosher and halal certification, and can be used in any recipe that calls for ground pork. Impossible Foods plans to roll out Impossible Sausage later this month in five test cities.

Impossible Foods and its main competitor, Beyond Meat, are shaking up the food and technology industries at a time of rising interest in climate change. The environmental cost of raising livestock is high: Livestock accounts for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions, for example, and last summer's Amazon rainforest fires were a result of clearing land for farming and ranching. Plant-based foods like Impossible Pork hold the promise of making a smaller environmental footprint with a more sustainable way of producing food.

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Launched here at CES last year, Impossible Burger 2.0 is now available in more than 7,000 Burger King locations across the US, as well as restaurants in the US, Hong Kong, Singapore and Macao and in several dozen grocery stores. The plant-based burger acts like ground beef, with a similar appearance, texture and flavor -- the burger chars when you grill it and even bleeds. Impossible Foods said its gluten-free pork and sausage substitutes should provide a similar experience for ground pork. 

We've had a chance to try Impossible Pork in a variety of preparations, like sandwiches and dumplings. From the taste to the cost and where to buy it, here's what we do -- and don't -- know about the substitute meat.

What does Impossible Pork taste like?

Our CNET editors had a chance to help prepare Impossible Pork dishes prior to CES and also try it at the conference in Las Vegas. They nearly all reported that the plant-based ground meat looked, smelled and cooked up like pork, with a mouthfeel you'd expect with that meat.

CNET senior editor Claire Reilly loved the Impossible Pork samples she tried at CES, saying they had the mouth feel of a fattier grade of pork. She noted that what she tried was nicely seasoned and suspected that just like with real pork, a dish could be good or bad based on what the chef did with the dish.

CNET editor at large Brian Cooley tried the fake pork prior to CES and also felt the samples he tasted were really good, with a nice texture and the essential pork chewiness and bounciness you'd want.

Not everyone responded favorably, however. CNET reporter Abrar Al-Heeti, a lifelong practicing Muslim, had to fight a gut feeling that she was eating something off-limits when she tried a sample.

What is Impossible Pork made of?

Like the Impossible Burger, the main protein in Impossible Pork is soy, with sunflower and coconut oils serving as fat sources. The other ingredients contain binders and flavorings including heme, which according to Impossible Foods is the molecule that gives beef that familiar meaty taste and smell when cooked.

For Impossible Burger and Pork, Impossible Foods modifies a type of yeast to make the heme from soybean leghemoglobin, which is an oxygen carrier found in legumes. (The company is sensitive to concerns about genetically modified food and argues that human history is in part a story about modification of edible plants.)

Why is Impossible Food making plant-based pork?

While poultry is the US meat of choice, worldwide, pigs are the most popular source of meat. China, by itself, consumes more than half of the world's pigs each year, making it an enticing target for plant-based pork.

While the company said it didn't create Impossible Pork primarily for those who have religious restrictions to eating pigs, the pork substitute is designed to be kosher and halal.

Is Impossible Pork healthier than meat from pigs?

A four-ounce serving of Impossible Pork has 220 calories versus 350 for pork. Total fat, including saturated fat, is 13 grams for the fake pork and 32 grams for the real (depending on the fat content of the cut of meat). Protein is about the same: 16 grams for the plant-based version and 17 for the animal one. 

Where Impossible Pork has 0 milligrams of cholesterol, regular pork has more: 86 milligrams. But Impossible Pork tops out at 420 milligrams of sodium, while regular pork contains 80. 

Impossible Pork vs. real pork

Nutrient Impossible Pork USDA 70/30 Pork
Calories 220 kcal 350 kcal
Total Fat 13g 32g
Saturated Fat 7g 11g
Cholesterol 0mg 86mg
Sodium 420mg 80mg
Fiber 1g 0g
Protein 16g 17g
Iron 2.7mg 1mg

What about Impossible Sausage?

We first got a peek at Impossible Foods' preseasoned sausage last spring when the company teamed up with Little Caesars to offer the Impossible Sausage Pizza at six dozen restaurant locations across the west. 

Starting later this month, Impossible Food will work with Burger King to test the Impossible Croissanwich -- a toasted croissant, egg, cheese and grilled Impossible Sausage breakfast sandwich -- in five test regions: Savannah, Georgia; Lansing, Michigan; Springfield, Illinois; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Montgomery, Alabama. The two companies already work together: The Impossible Burger-based Impossible Whopper went on sale last year.

What's next for Impossible Foods?

Pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world, but poultry is a close second. Impossible Foods suggested chicken, seafood and bacon substitutes are in the works, but didn't say when they would be available.

When will Impossible Pork be available?

Now, we're getting into things we don't know. Impossible Foods hasn't said yet when its plant-based pork will appear in restaurants or grocery stores.

Where can I buy it?

We don't know that either. The rollout of the Impossible Burger 2.0 was not a smooth one, as the company experienced shortages as it tried to keep restaurants across the country supplied last summer. While we aren't hoping for a similar shortage with Impossible Pork, we wouldn't be surprised if Impossible Foods keeps tight control on supply as it ramps up production.

How much will it cost?

Again, we don't know. To set expectations, a 12-ounce package of raw Impossible Burger goes for $8.99 in stores.

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The 12-ounce block of Impossible Burger meat goes for $8.99.

Amanda Capritto/CNET

Can I freeze it?

One more thing we don't know. We are guessing yes, because you can freeze raw Impossible Burger, but the company hasn't said.

For more in plant-based meat, see our comparison between Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat and how Impossible Burger stacks up to beef.

Originally published earlier this week.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.