White Castle and Fat Burger now feature Impossible Burgers, Del Taco has Beyond Meat on the menu, and Burger King is about to roll out a Beyond Meat Whopper. Hard Rock Cafes in Europe carry a veggie burger now, (though you’d have to skip the cheese to make it a vegan meal), and they expect to offer it in their US locations next year. As Phil Shainmark, our columnist for The Unlikely Vegan noted recently, “It’s quite possibly the best time to be a Vegan. There are so many amazing choices and places to go.” Even if you’re not a vegan or a fast food fan, the variety of meat alternatives is great news as many grocery stores and regular restaurants have also added plant based options to meet growing customer demand. According to Market Insider, the $14 billion dollar meat alternative industry is expected to grow to $140 billion over the next decade.
For many, the booming market reflects a health conscious trend. Not everybody is a vegetarian or vegan, but most of us are aware of the dangers of eating too much meat. Red meat consumption has been linked to an increase in heart attacks and strokes, diabetes, cancers, and high cholesterol, and now a new study indicates that other “white” meats may be no better. Simply skipping meat altogether a few times a week can substantially lower the health risks. Not ready to give up meat entirely? There’s a name for that: reducetarianism.
For others, concern for animals or the environment is the primary motivator for eliminating or significantly reducing their meat consumption. The commercial meat industry is rife with stories of horrendously inhumane conditions from raising to slaughtering, and the dangers of ingesting meat that has been treated with antibiotics, growth hormones and more has made it unappealing for many. As for the environment, reducing meat consumption could have a more profound effect on climate change than any other single thing you could do. In fact, embracing a plant-based diet could be key to saving the planet.
Whatever your reason, the major food companies are paying attention. Beyond Meat shares have soared over 400% since going public in May, and Nestles and Tyson Foods have announced plans to develop plant based meat substitutes. Since January, Impossible Foods (which is privately held) products have popped up on menus at chains such as White Castle, Red Robin, Qdoba and Little Caesars, where the Impossible Supreme pizza, featuring Impossible Sausage, is available in three markets in Washington, New Mexico and Florida.
As more people make the switch we should see those roll outs increase across the country, and even more exciting meat substitutes become available. It is, indeed, a good time to be a vegan, a vegetarian, or just someone who cares about the planet.