IT TAKES some balls but the signs are that more food companies are beginning to look at changing their menus to incorporate more sustainable options.
In an interview with 2degreesnetwork.com last month, the McDonald’s vice-president for corporate social responsibility, Bob Langert, was quizzed about pressure directed at the company’s Twitter feed to offer meatless options (with meat production resulting in high quantities of greenhouse gases). Could a veggie Big Mac be on the cards?
“Only time will tell,” he said, citing the goal to double the amount of fruit, veg, whole grains and low-fat milk on menus by the end of the decade. “Our menu innovation team continually seeks viable options – including non-protein menu items.”
Langert said he was in “no doubt” that the menu at McD’s would have to evolve. Others are singing a similar tune. In April, Ikea announced that it was looking at greener options for its most popular food – meatballs. The furniture retailer serves food to 261m customers a year, which amounts to 600,000 tonnes of CO2. It’s found that a big portion of this impact comes from the 150m meatballs sold every year. “They are very popular and they are also our most carbon-intensive food item on our menu,” said the head of sustainability, Joanna Yarrow, according to a Telegraph report. “We are aware of the meat issue with greenhouse gases.” Alternatives are therefore being developed, either using vegetables or other meats like chicken (but not horses, never again).
The mood is changing and the debate about eating less meat finally appears to be moving on. A YouGov survey commissioned by the Eating Better campaign last autumn showed that a third of consumers are willing to cut back on meat, with a quarter saying they were already eating less. The horse- meat scandal, rising food prices and growing awareness of the environmental and health benefits are all factors influencing this trend.
There is a long way to go before McD’s backs a veggie burger with the kind of marketing spend it throws at its meat versions, but these are businesses built on sniffing out market opportunities, and if there’s an ethical ingredient all the better. If consumer demand continues to rise – especially the trend for eating less meat, so-called flexitarianism – then the VBigMac might not be that far off.