The new McDonald's McPlant burger: A vegan victory or just more greenwashing?

Reviews have been mixed for McDonald’s highly anticipated plant-based burger, the McPlant.

Vegans have been pressuring the fast-food chain to join the meat-free movement for years, as the brand has historically been fairly lacking in vegan options.

“When will McDonald’s take climate change seriously and launch some vegan burgers?” asks a user on Twitter.

The certified vegan burger, due to hit selected stores from the end of this month, will feature a Beyond Meat patty and contain its own special vegan sauce and cheese.

The global chain has spent three years developing the McPlant and has even been accredited as vegan by the Vegetarian Society.

The burger is set to be the same price as the famous Big Mac at £3.49 (€4.09) and will be cooked separately from other meat and dairy products, ensuring no cross-contamination. Something which can’t be said of all its competitors.

The cross-contamination problem

Several other chains have already launched their own meat-free burgers but have met with issues regarding their authenticity as ‘vegan’.

Burger King launched their first meatless burger last year, the Plant-Based Whopper.

But there was a big issue with this specific burger. The fast-food chain cooks the soy-based patty on the same grill as its meat burger, causing cross-contamination so it cannot be labelled or accredited as vegan or vegetarian.

They’ve now released a new certified vegan option, the Vegan Royale, which follows strict cooking procedures.

What do consumers think?

Consumer opinions have been varied regarding McDonald’s new burger. Social media users have commented on its taste, accused the company of greenwashing, and questioned if vegans and vegetarians are even interested in meat substitutes.

However, customers who have already tried the burger seem impressed.

“I tried the Mcplant today and I really liked it,” said a user on Twitter.

“Not a fan of the greenwashing but we live in a free market economy so every step towards less meat consumption is better. I hope it takes off and encourages more people to ditch the meat options from time to time,” wrote Aneesa Admed.

Others were completely against the new burger, “it’s fast food and coming from McDonald’s, hard pass.”

McDonald’s have been subject to scrutiny for years over their environmental impact. Historically, forest destruction, palm oil use, beef production and mass cattle ranches have fed into the brand’s massive carbon footprint.

How does McDonald’s beef production impact the environment?

The fast-food chain is one of the biggest buyers of beef in the world.

It has been reported by The Counter, that around 1.6 billion pounds of beef per year contributes to 29 per cent of the company’s carbon footprint.

But it’s not all bad. In 2018, the fast-food chain became the very first global restaurant company to set science-based targets to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

The current target is to reduce their emissions related to their restaurants and offices by 36 per cent by 2030. That’s equivalent to taking 32 million cars off the road for an entire year, or planting 3.8 billion trees and leaving them to grow for 10 years.

McDonald’s is planning to meet these targets in a variety of ways. Crucially, by looking at their packaging, which they are aiming to source sustainably by 2025, and by assessing the sourcing of high carbon ingredients such as beef.