McDonald’s announced that it will introduce a new plant-based burger called the McPlant that will be available in key markets in 2021, CNN reports.
The burger, which is part of a growing wave of plant-based options being made available at fast food chains, was created in collaboration with meatless food brand Beyond Meat.
Meatless products are becoming more mainstream in American diets. Beyond Meat Founder Ethan Brown confirmed that 93% of Beyond Meat customers also buy animal products, which shows that meatless products are not just for vegetarians and vegans.
McDonald’s is the latest fast-food restaurant to begin testing out plant-based options alongside Burger King, KFC, Ikea, and Qdoba. The global chain will continue to provide traditional meat-based options at all of its locations.
"We have created a delicious burger that will be the first menu option in a plant-based platform," Ian Borden, president of McDonald’s International, told CNN.
Beyond providing more options for vegetarian customers, the introduction of the McPlant burger reflects an effort to be more sustainable. A study published in the journal Science found that cutting down on meat and dairy consumption is one of the most effective ways to protect the planet.
McDonald’s is the largest buyer of beef in the US, and beef is the most climate-intensive food on the planet. But the company is taking steps to minimize its environmental footprint. In addition to expanding its plant-based menu, McDonald’s is also working to reduce emissions by investing in regenerative agriculture.
Replacing meat with plant-based alternatives can also make the agricultural sector more environmentally friendly.
The same study published in Science found that livestock take up 83% of global farmland, but provide only 18% of the calories consumed globally. Growing more plant-based foods like beans and legumes would be a more efficient use of farmland.
Another study in 2018 found that people need to reduce their meat consumption to minimize the effects climate change. If Americans eat 90% less beef and 60% less milk, for example, it could help keep the world from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to the study.
Climate change disproportionately impacts those living in extreme poverty. By adopting climate-friendly diets, humanity will be able to better navigate the changing environment.
Swapping to a meat-free diet could help to protect soil, conserve water, save energy, and keep the air clean, according to VegNews.