McDonald's Announces New Plant-Based Burger

The long-awaited 'McPlant' was formulated with help from Beyond Meat.

Two women eat at McDonald's
Two women enjoy a meal at McDonald's.

@kirsty via Twenty20

McDonald's has just announced that it will be launching a plant-based burger patty in 2021. This is big news because McDonald's has lagged behind other major fast food chains when it comes to plant-based options. Burger King, A&W, Carl's Jr., and White Castle, to name a few, have all had vegetarian items on their menus for several years, while McDonald's has remained conspicuously silent.

Now it appears they were busy doing research and perfecting their strategy. Fast Company cited Zach Weston of the Good Food Institute. He explained that McDonald's is typically viewed as a "fast follower" – first observing other companies, then moving to jump on a trend:

"They don’t just do things overnight. When McDonald’s does something, they do it at a massive scale, so they really need an assured supply chain. They’re going to build up a supply chain ... to ensure that there is long-term demand for that item or for that category."

The burger, which has been controversially dubbed the McPlant (a lot of people think they could've done better with the name), is the result of a partnership with Beyond Meat, maker of the already widespread Beyond Burger. Details about its main ingredients have not been released, but it is possible that the McPlant contains some combination of Beyond's standard pea, bean, and potato starch formula

McDonald's president Ian Borden said earlier this week that the product is fully formulated and ready for launch, but that the company needs to determine where and how it will launch, likely in 2021. Borden said that this is just the beginning of a wider product range: "Ultimately, he told investors, 'McPlant' may refer to an entire alt-meat product line – one that could include offerings like imitation chicken products and breakfast sandwich meat" (via The Counter).

McDonald's does not have a great track record when it comes to environmentalism, and has been linked to catastrophic deforestation in the Amazon (as have many other fast food chains and supermarkets), but the fact that it sells 6.5 million burgers globally every day means that its decision to offer a plant-based burger can have a real impact. There is potential for more customers to try a vegetarian patty at McDonald's than at any other restaurant in the world. 

This announcement goes to show how widely accepted plant-based eating has become. In the words of Sabina Vyas, senior director at the Plant Based Foods Association, it "further cements that the plant-based industry is a mainstream part of the American diet." That is something worth celebrating.