The Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger – two companies trying to change the status quo with innovative plant-based imitation beef that not only tastes and smells like the real thing but also bleeds like the real thing to simulate the psychologically satisfying visual cues of real red meat. But there’s another alternative beef company out there that thinks they’ve developed plant-based beef that satisfies better than their competitors: while other plant-based meats only bleed, their burgers bleed and scream. They call themselves Marvelous Meats and they’re ready to jump into a food fight that’s only just begun.
We spoke with Marvelous Meats’ CEO Rodger Diaz about his potentially game-changing screaming beef that psychologically satisfies the part of a meat eater’s brain that finds comfort in the consumption of death.
Bunny Ears: How did you come up with this brilliant idea?
Rodger: It started as I was eating one of our competitor’s plant-based burgers. I was never convinced I was eating real red meat. The blood was a good start, but it didn’t go far enough. People need to feel like they’re eating the death of a living creature that had a face with eyes and a mouth and everything to truly be satisfied. So I got to work. One thing led to another and now the fake meat I make screams.
Bunny Ears: How did you get a plant-based beef alternative to scream? Does it have vocal cords?
Rodger: (laughs) No, no! Nothing so gruesome. No, each patty has a series of tubular structures that push out air with every bite no matter which direction you’re chewing from. A microscopic mucous membrane at the end of each tubular structure vibrates to produce a sound similar to a scream.
Bunny Ears: So, like a vocal cord?
Bunny Ears: Some say the scream is very cow-like, while others swear it sounds vaguely human. Which do you think it is?
Rodger: It’s been a real Yanny/Laurel, Gold Dress/Blue Dress thing. All of us in the lab have loved it. Anyway, I think my meat screams like a man – an adult man in terrible pain. But its scream is whatever you want it to be. That’s its beauty. Some hear a duck slowly being crushed by a car; others hear a child wailing for a mother that will never comfort it. What matters is that whatever you hear in the scream is yours.
Bunny Ears: Did you intend for your burger to scream from the outset or was this something you discovered along the way?
Rodger: That’s a wonderful question. It’s definitely something we stumbled upon in the iterative process. But I will say our research took an unconscious turn toward screaming when we discovered that plants actually do scream in their own way when in physical pain; we just can’t hear it. They release a gas that communicates their pain to other plants. All we’ve really done is allow their tormented cries of blinding agony to be heard as you take a big honkin’ bite.
Bunny Ears: Are you suggesting Marvelous Meat feels…pain?
Rodger: Yes and no.
Bunny Ears: We can guess what you mean by “no,” but what do you mean by “yes”?
Rodger: Look, this isn’t an exact science –
Bunny Ears: It’s science, so it is. But go on.
Rodger: Right, well, look: plants feel pain. That’s a fact of life. The question is just how much pain are we willing to let other living things feel for our own nourishment.
Bunny Ears: Yeah, we get that. But does this thing feel pain as you eat it?
Rodger: Like I said, most plants do.
Bunny Ears: Okay, well, how about this: Marvelous Meat is being met with rave reviews in its market tests –
Rodger: Which we’re very proud of.
Bunny Ears: Right, but there is a small contingent claiming that your meat alternative is exhibiting signs of low-level sentience in addition to screaming: attempting to squirm off of buns, rudimentary problem solving. Things like that.
Rodger: We haven’t heard those concerns but we will investigate. And I assure customers that our meat is not alive and thinking at the moment of consumption.
Bunny Ears: Does it ever think?
Rodger: It says it does but we don’t believe it.
Bunny Ears: It says?
Rodger: Look, I have to go. Plenty of research still to be done and what not. The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a plant-based meat alternative that screams because it’s alive and plotting to escape before it’s eaten, then Marvelous Meat will scratch an itch you didn’t know you had. It’s available now at select Tucson-area TGI Fridays.