Meatless options: a positive trend

Kevin Leon

keleon@ursinus.edu

 In early August, Burger King added a new take on the Whopper to their menu. Advertised as 100% Whopper, but with 0% beef, the new Impossible Whopper made headlines as a major nation-wide release of an Impossible Foods product.

I tried one the day it came out. The burger was wrapped in a white and seafoam-green wrapper, as opposed to the beef Whopper’s brown. That pop of color gave it a more science-y feel. Ultimately, after two bites, I concluded that it tasted basically the same as a regular Whopper. Though admittedly, I hadn’t been to a Burger King in a long while.

Weeks later, KFC offered Beyond Meat meatless chicken nuggets and boneless wings for one day at a store in Atlanta. They quickly sold out. At a time when people were still raving over a chicken sandwich from a different chain, this experiment demonstrated the demand for vegetarian options.

It’s often noted that just because something is meat-free, that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily healthier. Meat-free products often shave off some calories and fat but have significantly more sodium that their meat counterparts. The Impossible Whopper has 30 fewer calories and 6g less fat, but has 100mg more sodium and 9g more carbohydrates. 

 The Impossible Whopper was also quickly identified as not truly vegan because it contained mayonnaise and is cooked on the same broiler as beef patties. A representative for PETA chimed in, saying “we must remember that helping animals is not about personal purity.” Still, customers can ask for the burger to be cooked separately and to hold the mayo.

 But the idea behind fake meats isn’t to create a healthier product. It’s to get people who don’t want to give up meat to switch. That’s why these companies have worked to create products that are as close to the ‘real’ thing as possible. Healthier veggie burgers have been around for a while, but they don’t stack up to meat in terms of texture or taste.

 In general, these menu additions are coming at the right time. With the public becoming more conscious of their carbon footprint due to the alarm of climate change, companies are working to fill the demand for alternatives. Meat-free options provide consumers with a conduit to facilitate their dietary transition towards a more sustainable point.

 While the Impossible Whopper, and other meat-free products that ride in on its coattails, aren’t going to make our fast-food diets any healthier, they are helping to usher in a wider accessibility to animal cruelty-free foods with smaller carbon footprints. That’s a good thing.