How Plant-Based Fast Food Helps Spare Animals and Save the Planet
We all have opinions about the fast-food industry, but one thing is virtually indisputable: Vegan fast food has the potential to help animals, the environment, and human health. Here’s how:
Decreasing Demand for Animal Products
According to a 2019 study by market research firm The NPD Group, nearly 90 percent of people consuming plant-based meat and dairy products aren’t vegan or even vegetarian. Drawing from this insight and restaurant sales data, World Animal Protection estimates that if 90 percent of the menu items at fast-food restaurants made with Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat products were purchased by people who would’ve ordered animal-based items had the plant-based ones not been available, over half a million animals were spared from the food system in 2021:
Crunching the numbers, we estimate that in 2021 more than 211,000 pigs, 77,000 cows, and 350,000 chickens—or more than 630,000 total animals—exited the food system in the United States as a result of prominent chains including Beyond or Impossible products on their menus.
The actual number of animals spared could be higher. World Animal Protection’s estimates don’t include plant-based products made by the restaurants in-house or those from brands other than Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods.
Increasing Access to Plant-Based Foods in Low-Food-Access Communities
Low-food-access communities, often referred to as “food deserts,” are areas where residents have few to no convenient options for securing affordable fresh, healthy foods. Often lacking even one grocery store, these communities are saturated with fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.
For many Americans, plant-based options on fast-food menus are the only convenient opportunity available to try vegan meals. When mainstream fast-food eateries add vegan meals to their permanent menus, more people gain access to healthier, more compassionate plant-based foods, which in turn helps more animals.
Providing Healthier Alternatives
Vegan options are without a doubt better for animals than traditional meat and dairy products, but did you know they’re healthier too?
While eating at fast-food restaurants in general isn’t the best choice for our health, choosing a plant-based option over its animal-based counterpart does tend to be healthier. In a paper published in the journal Future Foods, scientists review 43 studies on the healthiness of plant-based alternatives to animal products and conclude that plant-based products (such as vegan burger patties and sausages) present better nutritional profiles, aid weight loss and muscle synthesis, and cater to specific health conditions.
These products also make it easier for people to reduce or eliminate their consumption of animals by providing the convenience, taste, and eating experiences consumers are used to.
Providing More Sustainable Options
Providing more plant-based options at fast-food restaurants enables consumers to choose meals that aren’t only better for farmed animals but better for our environment and wildlife harmed by habitat destruction for animal agriculture.
We must clear far more land to make space to grow crops to feed farmed animals than we would need to grow food for people. In fact, cattle ranching drives about 70 percent of Amazon deforestation, and a global shift toward plant-based eating would significantly help prevent biodiversity loss.
But land use isn’t the only issue. Studies comparing Beyond Meat patties, Impossible Foods patties, and beef patties have determined that beef patties are far worse in all metrics of sustainability. A ZME Science article about the studies states:
The meat industry is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, so much so that a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that shifting towards plant-based diets is a critical way to address climate change, and simply cutting emissions from cars and factories isn’t going to be enough to avoid a crisis.
Even if you’re not a fan of fast food, increasing vegan options on fast-food menus is more important than ever to help spare animals suffering at factory farms and reduce the harm of animal agriculture to our planet and public health.
Please speak out and tell restaurant chains that you want more plant-based options. Visit NewYearNewChoices.com to urge restaurant chains to offer new, exciting plant-based menu items.
Let’s make 2023 the year of more plant-based options!