The Accessibility of Plant-Based Foods and Its Benefitscsudhbulletin April 18, 2022 0 COMMENTS
In 2019, KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) became the first plant-based protein offered at a national chicken chain in the United States.
By Yennifer Ho, Staff Reporter
There is more to a plant-based diet than tofu, although I do enjoy eating it. Nowadays, there are many plant-based food manufacturers and the variety seems endless. Some grocery stores even have a dedicated section for plant-based products which is really convenient for me instead of having to scan every label.
Like many others, I love cheeseburgers and fried chicken, but I also try to reduce eating meat as much as I can. Recently, I’ve noticed that fast-food franchises are attempting to appeal to customers like me.
Honestly, plant-based burgers (specifically Beyond Meat patties) are delicious and even my boyfriend, a meat-lover, thinks so too. Beyond Meat is a popular plant-based meat substitute producer, based in Los Angeles, California. I have bought a couple of Beyond Meat products before, including their breakfast sausages.
In collaboration with Beyond Meat, KFC chains started this year by reintroducing their “meatless” nuggets called “Beyond Fried Chicken”.
This was not the first time KFC had this product temporarily on their menu. In 2019, they launched a test run of Beyond Fried Chicken at a single Atlanta location and sold out in five hours.
Carl’s Jr., on the other hand, has a more permanent item on their menu, the Beyond Meat Burger. More specifically, it’s called the “Famous Star” and is available with or without cheese; the patty is plant-based and an alternative to beef. They have sold nearly 12 million plant-based burgers since its release.
However, these plant-based foods are not completely “authentic”.
For instance, some pointed out that since KFC’s plant-based chicken is fried in the same oil used to fry real chicken, there is no point in calling it plant-based. Similarly, Carl’s Jr. handles plant-based meat on the same surfaces and equipment as real meat products.
On both KFC and Carl’s Jr.’s websites, they state that their products are not completely vegan but the Beyond Meat part is completely plant-based. They should have emphasized this in their advertising.
But, maybe we shouldn’t rely on fast-food corporations to make vegetarian and vegan fast food accessible and instead take responsibility for ourselves to eat better while also helping the environment.
Plant-based food can be more sustainable because its production uses fewer resources like water, energy, and land. It is reported that a whopping 80% of farmland is dedicated to livestock animals raised for meat and dairy.
Besides environmental benefits, replacing meat with plant proteins can have health benefits, especially compared to high-fatty foods like steak.
A study conducted by Stanford University showcased the health effects of eating plant-based food among 36 participants.
“Among generally healthy adults, contrasting plant with animal intake while keeping all other dietary components similar, the plant products improved several cardiovascular disease risk factors, including TMAO; there were no adverse effects on risk factors from the plant products,” said Anthony Crimarco, the lead author.
Trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) is a toxic compound produced in the stomach and can be linked to heart disease.
So, with all of these advantages of eating plant-based, I feel like it’s worth the extra money and effort making these types of foods at home from grocery store ingredients, given the rising accessibility of plant-based items. Also, I’ll know what is really in my ingredients and whether it’s vegan or vegetarian compared to going to a fast-food place and other restaurants.
The main criticism I have of plant-based products is their cost; most items I see are more expensive than their meat counterparts. Also, certain items are more difficult to find because it’s not in as much demand as meat and dairy products.
Nonetheless, I feel like eating plant-based is the future, and the pros outweigh the cons. There is more to diets than meat and processed foods and with more people being open to new and fascinating foods, eating plants is more than just a fad.
The plant-based market continues to grow and is expected to reach 77.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2025. Beyond Meat is one of the leading producers, but there are many other brands including Tofurky and Morningstar Farms (which I highly recommend). Their products are simple and easy to cook;, you don’t have to be Gordon Ramsey.
Now, what are you waiting for? Try some plant-based foods, your stomach will thank you.