Is a Whopper still a Whopper if it's not made with beef? According to Burger King, it is.

This week, the fast food giant announced that it will now offer a near-perfect vegetarian version of its most famous product, made primarily from soybeans. The “meat” for the meatless Whopper will be provided by the Silicon Valley firm Impossible Foods, a company that develops plant-based alternatives to meat.

“We’ve defined meat too narrowly. That is, we’ve defined it in terms of the technology that we use today to produce it as opposed to in terms of what consumers actually value,” Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown said in an August 2017 interview with Recode. “What consumers actually value is the special kind of deliciousness they get from meat and dairy foods and fish and so forth. ... It turns out they love it not because it is made using animals, it’s in spite of the fact that we use animals to make it.”

Though Burger King is the largest food chain to endorse and sell meatless imitations of their products, plant-based meat substitute companies have slowly been expanding their market presence. According to sales data analyzed by the nonprofit Good Food Institute, retail sales of plant-based meat substitutes exceeded $760 million in 2017.

“The huge iconic, branded Whopper will have an alternative made with soybeans,” Corby Kummer, a senior editor at The Atlantic, an award-winning food writer and a senior lecturer at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition and Policy, said on Boston Public Radio Tuesday. “These are great trends moving forward for alternatives to beef, which is really bad for greenhouse gas emissions, and really bad for the environment.”

Burger King is not the first major endorsement for plant-based meat alternatives. Impossible Foods investors include Google Ventures and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, while its chief rival Beyond Meat — which cut a similar deal with fast food chain Carl’s Jr. in January — counts Gates, along with actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, as early investors.

“By 2050, the world’s population will grow to more than 9 billion and our appetite for meat will grow along with it. The demand for meat will have doubled between 2000 and 2050,” Gates wrote in a personal blog postin March 2013. “Put simply, there’s no way to produce enough meat for 9 billion people. Yet we can’t ask everyone to become vegetarians.”

Impossible Foods' Brown says he expects his company's products to be served in more than 12,000 restaurants in the next few years, but some are still skeptical about whether consumers will find the plant-based meat a comparable substitute for a genuine beef patty. In an interview with Gates, Michael Pollan, the author of "The Omnivore’s Dilemma," said he appreciates the ingenuity of plant-based alternatives, but that the flavor still can’t compare to the real thing.

“Mock meats of various kinds have been around for years, but the quality has been questionable and, perhaps just as important, the price has been high,” Pollan said. “I’ve tried a few, and have not yet been overly impressed. There’s still a lot of work to be done."

Kummer, however, doesn’t think consumers will mind the plant-based substitute — he admitted even he has trouble telling the Impossible burger apart from an actual beef patty.

“In general ... I’d doubt I’d be able to tell the difference, unless I had [real] beef right next to me,” Kummer said.