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Air New Zealand Is the First Airline in the World to Offer a Meat-Free Burger

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Air New Zealand has been cemented as the first airline in the world to offer passengers the Impossible Burger, a meat-free, plant-based burger with a patty that mimics beef so realistically it even appears to ”bleed”.

The faux-burger will be offered to passengers in business class only during flights from Los Angeles to Auckland until October, after which Air New Zealand will review the burger’s popularity.

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“We're confident vegetarians, flexitarians, and dedicated meat lovers alike will enjoy the delicious taste of the Impossible Burger," Air New Zealand Inflight Customer Experience Manager Niki Chave said. "Just like Impossible Foods, we pride ourselves on being innovative, so we're interested in working with other companies that do the same. We also align with Impossible Foods when it comes to sustainability and the opportunity to be the first airline in the world to offer this amazing burger was too good not to pursue."

The Impossible Burger is made from an iron-containing molecule called heme, which comes from the roots of soy plants. Created in a lab by Stanford biochemistry professor Patrick O. Brown, the Impossible Burger has been widely popular in the United States since its launch two years ago. It is sold in nearly 2,500 restaurants across America.

The potential to alleviate the environmental effects of meat farming, increased knowledge about the negative health effects of too much red meat, and the opportunity to improve animal welfare have seen meat-free substitutes significantly increase in popularity over recent years.

The New Zealand Green Party has praised Air New Zealand's decision, stating that eating less meat will not only improve animal welfare but would also help cut emissions and lead to less-intensive farming. The Impossible Burger patty uses 95% less land than ground beef from cows, 75% less water, and it creates 87% less greenhouse gas emissions than those made from beef production.

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In a country where farming is a matter of national pride and an essential component of the economy, the controversial decision has unsurprisingly been met with a sea of criticism.

The New Zealand First party’s primary industries spokesman Mark Patterson described the inclusion of the Impossible Burger as a slap in the face for New Zealand's red meat sector.

“The national carrier should be showcasing our premium quality grass-fed New Zealand red meat, not promoting a product that has the potential to pose an existential threat to New Zealand’s second-biggest export earner,” Patterson stated. “This is not a good example of New Zealand Inc working together for the greater good.”

New Zealand’s Federated Farmers group said there were domestic products that could have been showcased instead, whilst James Parsons, the head of industry lobby group Beef and Lamb New Zealand, said farmers had every right to feel betrayed by the decision.

"The rub here isn't Air New Zealand offering a vegetarian menu option, it is the fact it is actively promoting via video a food that is completely disassociated with New Zealand and aimed at displacing New Zealand products," Parsons stated.

Meat products are the second-highest export earner for New Zealand, behind dairy, and contribute $6.1 billion to New Zealand's economy. In a statement, Air New Zealand revealed it had offered beef or lamb burgers on their flights since 2011 and announced the airline spends over $1 million each year on New Zealand beef and lamb for its in-flight meals.

“New Zealand is the best in the world at producing food in the conventional way, and this is disruptive change, potentially,” the CEO of Impossible Foods Dr. Patrick O.Brown told New Zealand Herald.

“On the other hand, that change is inevitable and being ahead of the curve is an awesome opportunity. If you look into the future, you can see it’s absolutely inevitable that there is going to be an irreversible transition away from animals as a food production system.”