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The Fast Food Industry Is Adding More Vegan Options in 2022

Fast food chains are making it easy to find plant-based options on the go. Here's where the industry is moving in 2022.

Written by
Asha Swann

Before fast food chains started incorporating plant-based options into their menus, climate-conscious folks who were limiting their intake of meat and dairy really only had a couple of options: French fries and salad. But planet-friendly menu items are being launched at rapid rates, and based on what's happening worldwide, it's only just the beginning.

There are now plant-based options at nearly every major fast food chain in the United States. KFC recently launched its Beyond Fried Chicken, Burger King has its Impossible Whopper (and Impossible Nuggets at select locations), McDonald's launched its McPlant burger that's expected to expand country-wide this year, and Taco Bell and Wendy's are each testing a meatless option. Even Starbucks has a meatless sausage breakfast sandwich to go along with your dairy-free latte.

How about what's happening elsewhere? Burger King just opened its first fully vegan restaurant in London. (Last year, an existing restaurant in Madrid, Spain, went vegetarian.) In Belgium, Dunkin' added 41 vegan doughnut flavors to its menu. Pizza Hut has plant-based chicken wings in Australia, and in Canada, A&W launched Beyond Meat Nuggets.

Considering many of the staples we now have on our menus were initially launched in other countries, we could be seeing an increase in our own plant-based offerings very soon. And that shift is beneficial to both the planet and these chains.

When Carl's Jr. launched its version of the Beyond Burger in the U.S., it quickly became the chain's most successful burger launch in recent years. Beyond Meat also reported that its revenue increased by over 30%, just from meeting new restaurant demands.

The demand for vegan meat is showing up over 1,000% more frequently on menus. And data shows the demand for plant-based meat alternatives has jumped by around 60% in the last two years alone.

"It’s never been easier than it is now to be a plant-based eater," says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, an inclusive plant-based dietitian and owner of Master the Media in Stamford, CT. "There are countless options almost everywhere you go, from the grocery store to restaurants and fast-food chains."

But with so many of these fast-food options being processed foods, is it really as good as we think? Overall, more people swapping meat for plant-based foods—even if it's just their fast food order—can have a huge impact on global carbon emissions.

Past research has shown emissions from animal agriculture—think beef, poultry, and lamb—are higher than the emissions produced from growing plants. Studies also show that the average American diet, which is higher in animal-based proteins, is significantly higher than the average Indian diet, where dishes often used plant-based proteins like soybeans, chickpeas, and lentils.

In short, swapping meat for plants adds up when we're all working to make a change. And thanks to these fast food chains and restaurants making options more accessible (experts estimate that by 2029, the plan-based market will be worth over $90 billion!), more people will be able to dip their toes into the trend—and, hopefully, experiment with more plant-based dishes at home.