The Rise in Plant-Based Alternatives

Home S&S Opinion The Rise in Plant-Based Alternatives

By LISA SHEN
Staff Writer

On November 18th, Phillip Williams filed a class action lawsuit in Florida against Burger King because allegedly, the Impossible whopper is cooked on the same grill as meat products. Burger King’s online advertisement for the product is “100% Whopper, 0% beef,” and in fine print, it reads “For guests looking for a meat free option, a non-broiler method of preparation is available upon request.” However, Williams, who went through the drive-through claimed that he saw no such warning in the physical store. He accused Burger King for false advertisements and making profits off of those faulty claims. And he would be correct. Restaurant Brands, who owns Burger King, reported back more than ten percent in sales. The company attributed its success to the Impossible Whopper. 

Similar to Burger King, many fast food restaurants have jumped on the fake-meat train after realizing the potential market. Restaurants such as Carl’s Jr, White Castle, The Cheesecake Factory, Del Taco, Dunkin’, among others, have introduced one or more products containing fake meat products. At this point, the two main meat-alternatives companies include Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. TIME magazine placed the newest version of the Impossible Burger on its 100 best inventions of 2019 list. 

And although it is reasonable to conclude that these trends are due to a rise in vegetarianism or veganism, evidence indicates otherwise. According to Gallup, the percentage of vegetarians remain unchanged from 2012, staying at five percent. The percentage of vegans rose from two percent in 2012 to three percent in 2018. These statistics indicate that vegetarianism and veganism is not the reason for an increase of interest in plant-based alternatives.

So why are they gaining so much momentum? There seems to be two answers, sustainability and health. 

Sustainability. By now, most people have realized the urgency of climate change and have tried to take daily steps to help. Plant-based products have shown to need less resources and cause less damage than their counterparts.  According to a Life Cycle Analysis by the University of Michigan, the Beyond Burger uses 99 percent less water, 93 percent less land, 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, 46 percent less energy compared to a 0.25 pound of beef burger. 

Of course, the most sustainable thing to do would be for everyone to just eat plants, however, that is not a realistic goal due to various cultural or practical reasons. The more realistic pathway would be for there to be a transition into less animal products, which is why it’s great that these products are gaining more mainstream popularity. 

Health. Health is a more complicated issue. For those with lactose intolerance, it is clear that plant-based beverages such as almond and cashew milk are the better option. And in general, eating more fruits and vegetables are beneficial for anyone. However, many people that choose the Impossible or Beyond burgers do not realize this is not the healthiest option. According to the Harvard Medical School, although plant-based meats are full of proteins, vitamins and minerals, they are also heavily processed. However, this should not stop anyone from consuming these, as actual beef have similar data. People should just realize that by choosing the vegan alternative, they are helping the planet more, rather than helping their health. Plant-based burgers and normal burgers alike should be treated and indulged as novelties. 

One interesting observation from this trend is how precisely money and demands drives companies. For example, the company that owns Burger King, Restaurant Brands, also owns Popeyes. And Popeyes is known for its spicy chicken sandwich, which also made headlines when it was sold out. The owner of these companies, not surprisingly, only cares about sales in this capitalistic economy. However, although usually a negative phenomenon, can be a good thing in the case of fake meat products. The companies will listen to customers’ needs and in this case, actually help out with the declining health of our planet. It will not be surprising if Burger King comes out with even more products featuring plant-based alternatives. Final takeaway, vote with your dollars and when you are out and about with friends next time, try the plant-based alternative, it might surprise you. 

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