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The key to the perfect veggie burger may be synthetic blood

Patrick Brown is a biochemistry professor at Stanford with an interesting side career: He wants to create the perfect fake meat. His 3-year-old startup, Impossible Foods, has raised about $75 million in venture capital from, among other people, Bill Gates, and he's well on his way to accomplishing his goal, The Wall Street Journal reports. Brown's secret: Bioengineered blood, created from plants.

Brown's synthetic blood looks and tastes like animal blood, though it uses plant matter to recreate the hemoglobin molecule — and most importantly it makes the textured plant protein meat stand-in look, smell, and cook like ground beef. Grilled, it even feels like hamburger, The Journal's Evelyn M. Rusli says, after touring Brown's "sort-of Willy Wonka lab" in Redwood City. The taste, though, is "arguably several rungs below a gourmet burger, and more akin to a turkey patty," Rusli concludes. Also, at the moment, each patty costs about $20 to produce.

Brown, 60, wants to replace the cattle industry for mostly environmental reasons, since animals take more land and use more resources than plants. "Livestock is an antiquated technology," he tells The Journal. "We want the hard-core beef lovers, the guy who's basically saying, 'You know, I'm literally on the opposite pole from a vegetarian, in no conceivable universe would I accept any substitute for meat.'"