Plant-based meat is taking over!

Plant-based fast food, also known as beyond burger fast food on the rise. Veganism and vegetarianism are becoming popular dietary choices all around the world. The 2019 Plant-Based Food Association (PBFA) report stated that the retail sales of plant-based food increased by a stunning 11%. 2019 has been declared as the year of the vegan due to promising technology which encouraged the food industry to please its veggie customers. 

With more and more people turning to this lifestyle to improve their health as well as the environment, restaurants also started adding more plant-based options to their menus. You can now find a vegan version of your favorite dish almost everywhere you go. Along with feeding customer demand, the beyond meat restaurants are also introducing curious eyes to a brand new world. 

But there’s one thing that’s been making much more noise than anything else – plant-based fast food. From supermarkets to restaurants, meat items like burgers are now coming with a healthier, cruelty-free alternative. 

Your favorite guilty pleasures can now be enjoyed with much less guilt. There’s a vegan version out there for almost every fast food item you can think of! So let’s dive into the cruelty-free world and check out exactly what plant-based meat fast food is all about. Scroll to the end of this article to find out exactly what vegan items you can get at some of your favorite fast-food chains. 

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Plant-based meat substitutes

So how do plant-based meat substitutes even work? Burgers like Impossible Burger have been carefully studied to make sure their taste resembles as close as possible to the real thing. 

The Director of Research and Development at Impossible Foods calls it reverse-engineering of a burger. First, the flavor is broken down into basic components to identify what works and what doesn’t. 

The researchers at Impossible Foods then discovered what makes the beef have its typical beefy flavor – it’s a molecule called heme. It’s exactly what makes the vegan burgers bleed just like the real thing. Impossible Foods recreated similar flavor chemistry and bleeding reaction and managed to come up with a plant-based heme source. 

The sizzle of a meat-based burger comes from fat and the researchers were able to find the same effect in coconut oil. Combining all of the ingredients together, with added flavors, pretty much successfully recreates a plant-based substitute for popular meat products. 

From supermarkets to restaurants, meat items like burgers are now coming with a healthier, cruelty-free alternative. Your favorite guilty pleasures can now be enjoyed with much less guilt.

The history of plant-based products

“Veganism” was first coined in 1944, but vegan and vegetarian diets have existed long before then. The lifestyles prevailed in India and eastern Mediterranean areas, but haven’t made their way to the West until fairly recently. Many philosophers, as well as plenty of religions, follow the rule of not inflicting harm on anyone, including animals. This extends to not using any animal-based products, including in cosmetics and clothing. 

Over the years, technology demonstrated that humans don’t even need meat to enjoy meat-like flavors. First known patented techniques for growing cultured meat belong to biologist Willem van Eelen, who started experimenting on them in 1997. These techniques have since then helped establish further cruelty-free versions, one of the first ones belonging to Mark Post, who created the first cell-cultured burger and ate it on national television. 

This was an important milestone for the plant-based lifestyle as it not only showed that creating lab-grown burgers is possible, it also makes them just as delicious. 

Science and experiments discovered even more ways of re-creating a meat-free version of your favorite burger, slowly making them available in supermarkets and now even restaurants. 

Plant-based diet is often praised for its many nutritional benefits and overall improved well being on the human body. It may also lead to weight loss, improve digestion, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, cut cancer risks and more. Many doctors and personal trainers advocate for a vegan or vegetarian diet, claiming it is the best way to improve your wellbeing and detox your body. 

But even plant-based food can be unhealthy. It’s been noted that plant-based meat, although a wonderful substitute for standard burgers, isn’t supposed to be your typical health food. It’s important to note that as these products try to do their best to imitate the real thing, they involve plenty of processed ingredients. Although eating less meat is considered healthy, eating plenty of processed food does more bad than good – whether you’re vegan or not. 

BusinessInsider notes that the current focus of the industry is to find plant-based substitutes. Whether they are healthy or not, isn’t the biggest priority just yet. In fact, it’s been discovered that cruelty-free alternatives often contain the same amount of calories as their originals. 

However, plant-based meat products are still considered to be a better alternative when consciously consumed. Most importantly, meatless meat makes a huge difference when it comes to the environment. Climate change activists frequently praise vegan and vegetarian diets for minimizing the effect the food has on the climate – livestock farming is known to have a hugely negative impact on the climate. 

“We are now in the advanced stages of the biggest environmental catastrophe that our planet has ever faced, and overwhelmingly the largest driver of that is animal-based food technology.” –  Pat Brown, CEO of Impossible Foods 

A plant-based meat product like the Impossible Burger has an 89% smaller carbon footprint to its meat alternative and uses 87% less water. Consciously consuming and choosing other vegan products instead of going for the meat option most definitely has an eco-friendly impact.

Where to find plant-based fast food products

With plant-based meat on the rise, more and more companies have decided to join the bandwagon. Not only can you find brands like Impossible Foods and The Meatless Farm Co in supermarkets, but many fast food chains have also adapted to the increasing plant-based demands. You can find vegetarian options, which include dairy, in almost every restaurant. However, vegan options, which are completely plant-based, have only become more available in recent years. 

Here’s a list of popular fast food chains that offer plant-based meat alternatives on their menu, found in most locations around the US and Canada. 

  • McDonald’s – P.L.T. Burger
  • Burger King – Impossible Whopper
  • White Castle –  Impossible Slider
  • Fatburger – Impossible Fatburger
  • Hardee’s – Beyond Sausage Biscuit and Original Beyond Thickburger
  • Denny’s – Beyond Burger
  • A&W Canada – Beyond Burger
  • Hard Rock Cafe – Impossible Burger
  • The Cheesecake Factory – Impossible Burger
  • Qdoba – Impossible tacos, burritos and bowls
  • Red Robin – Impossible Burger
  • TGI Fridays – Beyond Burger
  • Carl’s Jr. – Beyond Famous Star, Beyond BBQ Cheeseburger
  • Del Taco – Beyond Taco
  • Blaze Pizza – Vegan Spicy Chorizo Topping
  • Dunkin’ – Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich
  • Little Caesars – Impossible Supreme Pizza

Fast food chains continue to add new versions as well as trial menus, so make sure to check their menu online before visiting – you might find a plant-based item you have never seen before. 

So, is the future vegan? 

While it seems like many are jumping on the vegan bandwagon, food experts argue that the future is far from being completely cruelty-free. 

CBC reports that people are more attracted to taste than ethics, which means that as long as they are opting in to some of the plant-based options, they are still contributing to a better environment. While environmental concerns are a strong factor when it comes to food choices, the main driver remains taste. 

The world may never be 100% vegan, but food experts hope that the plant-based evolution will encourage people to enjoy a varied flexitarian diet and make conscious food choices. 

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:

 5 Problems That Vegans Will Always Face, And How To Solve Them | Living 101

Cutting out animal products comes with a few unexpected life changes. 

Fast Food Restaurant Items That Are Actually Good For Your Health | Living 101

Not everything related to fast food is actually unhealthy for you!

Here’s How You Can Make Vegan Bacon At Home | Living 101

You can have it ready in 30 minutes and you’ll only need 4 ingredients!