Big meat is starting to take a bite out of the veggie market: after rival Burger King partnered with Impossible Foods to produce a meatless patty and McDonald's' own test drive with Beyond Meat, McDonald's has now announced it will roll out a veggie patty as of 2021.
Meatless patties aren't exactly a new thing but we've seen a complete revamping of these products in recent years. No longer are they bland, run-of-the-mill patties made from chickpeas or soy; thanks to innovations from companies like Beyond Meat or Impossible Burgers, many veggie patties nowadays look, feel, and even bleed like the real thing.
Understandably, fast food companies are taking note. With more and more people becoming vegetarians, McDonald's' announcement is not only unsurprising, it looked unavoidable. In fact, the company tested a similar product at some locations in Canada, and the test seemingly went well.
The new McDonalds veggie burger, called McPlant, will be rolled out in some locations and then expand depending on demand. It will have every hallmark of a McDonald's burger (for better or for worse), with the small difference that it will be meatless.
“Based on what we learned and an encouraging response, we’re excited to give you a sneak preview of the McPlant—a delicious plant-based burger crafted for McDonald’s, by McDonald’s,” the company wrote in its announcement. “It’s made with a juicy, plant-based patty and served on a warm, sesame seed bun with all the classic toppings.”
The announcement was made during an investor call by Ian Borden, the company's international president. The details were scarce as to what locations will feature this patty, but according to Borden, the plant replacements will eventually expand to chicken and breakfast sausage alternatives.
There was also some confusion regarding who is making the patty: Borden said the company would not be partnering with other faux-meat vendors, but Beyond Meat has said they also worked on the project, which stirred confusion.
Far from being a mere business decision, this trend of de-meatifying our menus has substantial implications for the environment. The environmental impact of veggie patties is substantially lower than that of meat ones, and with McDonald's selling 2.4 billion burgers every year, if even a fraction of those are replaced, it could make an important difference.
Other restaurants offering meat substitutes include TGI Fridays, Subway, Carl's Junior, Yard House, BurgerFi, Del Taco, Hardees, Dunkin' Donuts, White Castle, Red Robin, Qdoba, Fatburger, HardRock Café, Cheesecake Factory, Applebee's and Little Caesars Pizza, according to a 2020 trends report by Johns Hopkins University's Center for a Livable Future.