New slant on plants (Picture: Supplied)
The appetite for meat-free fast food has rocketed in the past three years – a recent YouGov poll found a third of Brits are introducing vegan meals to their diet. The bigger chains are fighting hard to keep up.
When McDonald’s tested a limited run of its new vegan McPlant burger last autumn, UK demand was so great that the company added it to the menu in every branch in the country in January.
Angela Terry, environmental scientist and founder of eco website One Home, says: ‘The fact McDonald’s had to invent the McPlant burger to meet public demand says everything about how our tastes are changing.
‘Younger customers are incredibly aware of how meat, and particularly beef production, takes an enormous toll on the planet’s resources.
‘Meat and dairy production is responsible for over half (60%) of agriculture’s global greenhouse gas emissions. The foods themselves provide just 18% of people’s average calories. On a planet in crisis, this is a huge waste of energy and resources.
‘On the whole, meat-free food is healthier too and traditional burger fans are welcoming options with less saturated fat that still taste really good.’
We asked vegan Georgia Plumb to join Angela in testing the high street’s most popular meat-free fast food burgers. Georgia, a 22-year-old teaching assistant from Wimbledon says: ‘I have avoided fast food chains since I became a vegan six years ago – but it’s really encouraging to see burger joints catching up with my generation’s appetite for vegan food.’
Here we test five high-street burgers for health and environmental impact and taste.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen Classic Vegan £8.25
Nature’s finest (Picture: Burger King)
Handmade, pan-fried bean patty, vegan mayo, relish, salad.
Georgia: ‘It’s a chunky mouthful and spicy. If you don’t like “mock meats”, it’s a good option. But because it’s bean-based, this is the driest burger.
I would add vegan cheese.’ ★★✩✩✩
Angela: ‘The pulses are important sources of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Beans need less water and fertiliser than other crops, which is good for the environment and way better than a beefburger.’ ★★★★✩
KFC Original Recipe Vegan Burger £5.49
Bit dry but plenty of positives (Picture: PA)
A Quorn fillet, coated in KFC’s recipe of 11 herbs and spices, in a sesame bun with lettuce and vegan mayo.
Georgia: ‘Mmmm, I can taste the seasoning I remember from eating chicken KFC. It’s a little bit dry, took me a long time to chew.’ ★★★✩✩
Angela: ‘Considering it’s made from fermented fungus, Quorn is surprisingly tasty and good for the planet. It is high in protein and low in fat. Quorn says its products have a 95% lower carbon footprint than beef mince and use less than one eighth of the amount of land to produce. The palm oil used is 100% sustainable. They also use much less water than beef.’ ★★★★★
Wimpy Vegan Burger £7.95
Meat-like but flavourless (Picture: Wimpy)
Patty combines pea and rice protein, with extracts …read more
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