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More and more fast food chains are adding plant-based meat options. For example, Chipotle introduced a plant-based vegan sausage for a limited time, KFC launched a plant-based fried chicken option in partnership with Beyond Meat, and McDonalds announced this week that its meatless burger, the McPlant, will be available at 600 stores in the San Francisco and Dallas areas starting next month.
While customers who eat only plant-based meat represent a small portion of the population (5% of Americans identify as vegetarian and 3% vegan, according to a 2018 Gallup poll), the demand for alternatives to meat in restaurants is on the rise as carnivores want to try new options too.
A 2021 survey by Piplsay found that 71% of 30,700 people surveyed said they had heard of plant-based meat substitutes at fast food restaurants. Of them, 54% had tried those alternatives, 72% of them identified as carnivores.
“Restaurants are definitely trying to meet this growing demand for plant-based products by offering more meat alternatives on their menus.. The industry is expected to stay the course in 2022 as meat alternatives evolve and become more accessible,” Maha Bazzi, agricultural campaign manager for World Animal Protection, told USA TODAY.
The use of meat alternatives by restaurant chains in 2021 saved the equivalent of more than 700,000 animals: 212,000 pigs, 92,000 cows and 405,000 chickens, according to new research from World Animal Protection, a global nonprofit dedicated to animal welfare.
Two of the biggest companies behind plant-based meat alternatives, Beyond Meat and Impossible Meats, increased their restaurant partnerships in 2021 to include plant-based alternatives for dishes made from chicken.
Beyond Meat launched new tender chicken options in US restaurants last July, while Impossible Meats expanded into chicken nuggets in the fall.
Restaurants currently serving Impossible Foods meat include Burger King, Red Robin, White Castle, Cheesecake Factory, and Dave & Buster’s., while Beyond Meat products are sold at chains such as Pizza Hut, Subway, Carl’s Jr. and Panda Express.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.