Recently, like thousands of other Americans, I went to Burger King to get a Whopper for lunch. There it was: perfect, juicy, glistening. And, without mayo, vegan. This year, the fast-food giant is rolling out the plant-based Impossible Burger at its 7,200 U.S. locations, joining White Castle, Carl’s Jr., Del Taco, and TGI Fridays in serving vegan “meat.” KFC offered vegan fried chicken at one of its stores this year, and even McDonald’s is contemplating a plant-based option.
The country’s deep-fried fast-food charnel houses are offering kinder, greener alternatives, and customers are buying them in droves. That is a testament to the great advances that food manufacturers have made in producing animal products without animals: Impossible Burgers, Beyond Meat patties and sausages, and Just Mayo are becoming more common not only because they are good (ethically), but also because they are good (to eat). That is also a result of the way contemporary food entrepreneurs have slipped these products into the mainstream of American culture: not by trying to convert omnivores, but by appealing to them.
“The reason the company exists is because of the mission impact,” David Kay of Memphis Meats, a leading cell-based-meat start-up, told me, referring to the company’s desire to create environmentally and ethically sound products. That said, “we have a deep respect for meat culture at Memphis Meats,” he added. “I think we recognize that it has played an important role historically and even evolutionarily.” The company is “absolutely not interested in doing anything that seems exclusionary.” Plant-based-food companies have echoed that sentiment.