Is a Vegan Burger Still Vegan if It Touches Beef?

And what if it’s topped with bacon?

August 06, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Fast-food chains face some touchy issues as they add trendy plant-based options to their menus, reports Fortune magazine, particularly in regards to where their plant-based options are cooked and stored. Each has taken a different stance on the matter.

Next week, Burger King will offer an Impossible Foods plant-based burger nationwide, and employees will cook each patty using the same broiler used for preparing regular burgers and chicken. Unless a customer asks for it to be prepared separately, that is.

Burger King says 90% of the customers who ordered the Impossible Whopper during a trial run this spring are meat eaters, which means most diners may not care if their faux-meat patties are cooked alongside traditional beef. The chain doesn’t label the product as vegan and permits customers to ask for their Impossible Whopper to be cooked in the oven instead, according to the company. But for consumers who eschew meat, the prospect of cross-contamination may be concerning.

Impossible Foods, a plant-based meat and dairy substitute provider, said it has no control over the way restaurants cook its product.

It’s easier to separate meat from non-meat at fast-food chains where food is prepared in convection ovens or other individualized cooking methods, rather than with large broilers or grills. At Dunkin’ locations offering a Beyond Meat sausage, the sandwich is cooked separately on individual pieces of parchment paper, and the patties are stored on individual portion trays. Tim Hortons also cooks and stores separately its Beyond Meat items from its meat. White Castle says it cooks the Impossible Slider on a separate grill. If space is limited during a busy time, workers clean the grill before cooking it.

Except for those practicing a strict vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, most Americans may not care. A growing group of consumers are calling themselves flexitarians, which means they want to eat less meat, but not eliminate it all together.