(Midway Staff)

Midway Staff

To meat or not to meat: Fast food vegetarian options

February 11, 2022

Diminishing the risk of heart disease and cancer, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing the amount of air pollution released from growing and raising animals and ending the cruel treatment of animals in mass factory farms — these are some of the reasons that many people are becoming vegetarian. As the health and environmental benefits of vegetarianism become more well known, consumers are beginning to turn to vegetarian alternatives for popular meat products. 

In response, fast food chains that traditionally rely on processed meat based products, such as Chipotle, Burger King and KFC have all released vegetarian alternatives in an attempt to cater to these consumers with fast, affordable options. These alternatives are plant-based, often made from soy or pea protein, and claim to taste nearly identical to meat. Although the demand for these vegetarian alternatives is high, there has been skepticism in the past over the validity of nonmeat substitutes, and many consumers tend to default to meat options. Many of those who tend to default to meat based meals cite the often higher prices of vegetarian alternatives, and question the extent to which they really do taste like meat.

To see for themselves, two Midway reporters, Samuel Beck, a lifelong vegetarian, and Erich Raumann, a lifelong meat eater, tried meatless versions of Chipotle, Burger King and KFC’s popular dishes, assessing their taste and similarities to real meat, along with researching their price and health benefits. They discovered a wide variance in taste, texture and presentation, varying from almost inedible to nearly identical to the dish they imitate.

Chipotle’s Vegetarian Chorizo

The Chipotle Vegetarian Chorizo was rich, crispy, if not perhaps a bit dry, and added a nice touch to the overall flavor of the burrito. This, combined with its relative similarities to the genuine meat it substitutes, makes it a great addition to an order, and a viable alternative to genuine meat.

Burger King’s Impossible Whopper

While the taste and texture of the meatless patty does not resemble an actual hamburger, the Impossible Whopper is mostly indiscernible from the highly processed beef sold at fast food restaurants like Burger King or McDonalds. If you are looking for a vegetarian replacement for a classic fast food burger, the Impossible Whopper takes the cake.

KFC’s Beyond Fried Chicken

While the texture of the meatless chicken was firm, chewy, and incredibly dry, the flavor was intense and made up for some of the texture shortcomings. If you’re willing to chew a bit more than usual, this is a somewhat viable alternative to genuine meat.

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