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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Is vegan food “stupid”? We tried famous fast-food burgers to find out

Former Leader of the Conservative Party for Bradford, Simon Cooke, tweeted out “veganism is stupid” last week, which got us in the Asian Standard office thinking about vegan fast food.

The tweet comes amid Veganuary – a month dedicated to omnivores (people who eat meat and vegetables) going plant-based for 31 days.

The challenge is “to promote and educate people on veganism by encouraging people to follow a vegan lifestyle for January.”

A “vegan lifestyle” means no meat, no dairy, no leather or fur clothes, and no household products or makeup tested on animals.

The Vegan Royale was tasty but needs onions, tomato, and cheese.

You don’t need to throw out your favourite leather trainers or handbag to go vegan for January, you just need to eat food with no animal products in for the month.

A survey commissioned by the Vegan society in 2019 found that 600,000 people were vegan which is around 1.16% of the population.

Around 7.2m people follow a meat-free diet in the UK, with a further 8.8 million people going meat-free by the end of 2022, analysis by Finder.com has found.

With an increasing market, fast-food giants, McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC have all tapped into the market, producing plant-based replicas of their famous burgers.

The founder, editor, and managing director of Asian Standard, Fatima Patel, and I, did a very scientific taste of the burgers on offer to see whether they are ‘stupid’ or tasty.  You can watch the video, here.

The benefits of offering vegan burgers

The main benefit of vegan burgers is that more people can enjoy fast-food restaurants. Gone are the days when vegetarians, vegans, people who suffer from allergies and intolerances, and people following a halal diet are stuck eating just chips.

McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC now all serve at least one vegan item on their menus.

With no meat or dairy involved, those of us with dietary requirements can eat at these fast-food joints with friends and family with no qualms.

As the meals are completely plant-based it also means that no animals were raised to be eaten by humans, reducing animal suffering and being better for the environment – did you know that methane from livestock contributes up to 10% of methane emissions?

The runners up

Taking silver in the taste test is Burger King. They offer two plant-based meals, the Vegan Royale, and the Plant-Based Whopper, with chips that are certified vegan too (unlike KFC).

The Plant-Based Whopper had the grilled taste that Burger King is known for but overall was quite bland. The Vegan Royale fairs a little bit better; it is tasty and looks very similar to its poultry counterpart, but it is missing the added accoutrements such as onions, tomatoes, and cheese that makes a burger a proper burger.

The Original Vegan Burger had the same spices as the traditional chicken burger but was a bit mushy.

We completed our taste test in our office in Little Germany, meaning that we got each of the burgers delivered from an online delivery service.

In person, you can buy Burger King’s burgers on its own, but you can only purchase the burgers as a meal online, meaning that you are spending almost £10 a go on a burger, chips, and a drink.

In last place, is the KFC Original Recipe Burger. A Quorn fillet with KFC’s famous 11 spices, the burger is just a bit dry and mushy.  It comes with vegan mayo, but not nearly half as much. Like the Vegan Royale and the Plant-Based Whopper, this burger is missing the vegetable decorations to enhance the flavour.

Chips in KFC are fried in the same oil as their popcorn chicken, which makes them unsuitable for vegans.

At £5.49 for the burger or £6.49 for a burger and drink, the vegan chicken alternative is also quite expensive. However, the packaging at KFC does outcompete the other restaurants.

Who came out on top?

McDonald’s was a bit late to the party with releasing the McPlant, as it only became available at all locations in the UK at the start of this month, but it was worth the wait.

The McPlant came out on top.

Like all items, the price of the meal varies from location to location, but in Bradford, the McPlant costs £3.89 on its own and £5.79 for a medium meal with a drink.

What makes the McPlant so good is that it is so similar to its meat equivalent. The patty is thin, and it comes with tomato ketchup, lettuce, onion, tomato, and most importantly, vegan cheese and mayo.

If you are vegan or dairy intolerant, then you know the struggle in finding a decent vegan cheese. The vegan cheese that McDonald’s have created tastes exactly like its dairy predecessor, so much so you would be mistaken for thinking that they’ve given you the wrong slice.

What would we do differently?

Firstly, we would reduce the cost, £9.39 for a vegan burger meal at Burger King is just too much. We would also add cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onions to the Burger King and KFC burgers – as all good burgers should have these vital ingredients.

Setting up additional fryers solely for chips in KFC to make them suitable for non-meat eaters would also be a good idea so that vegans and vegetarians can enjoy a full meal at the fast-food joint.

Final verdict: Are vegan burgers ‘stupid’?

No. Each burger we tried were surprisingly tasty and deserves a place on the market. Increasing vegan dishes in mainstream food outlets means that people with certain dietary requirements have more options are not restricted to chips and a soft drink when out with friends and family.

Do you think vegan burgers are ‘stupid?’ let us know your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to watch our video on the subject, here.

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