The Plant-Based Meat In Fast Food Trend Might Already Be Dead

"Plant-based goodness." "Protein from plants?" "Tastes just like meat — without the meat!"

Chances are you've probably heard these slogans and sayings in one variation or another. For quite a while now, the world of plant-based meats and proteins has been the subject of spirited debate among consumers. Global Citizen goes so far as to proclaim plant-based meats as a "food of the future," while the T.H. Chan School of Public Health argues that plant-based meats aren't as healthy as they are made out to be, with even the Whole Foods CEO making the same claim (via CNET). Whether you are a proponent or opponent of plant-based diets, one can't argue that the fast-food industry hasn't tried its hand at entertaining vegans with their own green-based menu items.

You may recall that McDonald's launched its McPlant, the Golden Arched take on the plant-based burger, back in late 2021. You may also remember hearing something about Burger King offering "Impossible Nuggets," or chicken-free chicken nuggets. Even KFC, which is pretty much built on the very idea of frying chicken, offered its own "Beyond Fried Chicken." Whether it's real meat or plant meat, fast-food companies will find some way to sell it.

But it seems that the plant-based craze may be losing steam, withering away like a soybean plant without any roots. What exactly could cause the sudden end of such a monumental experiment?

Plant-based meats are too expensive

How exactly could an industry that seemed to be leaning on plant-based meats and vegan alternatives suddenly just stop dead in its tracks? The answers, according to Business Insider, are simple: Slow sales coupled with an extremely high cost.

Brian Yarbrough of Edward Jones gave a perfect example: At a Starbucks in New York, an "Impossible" breakfast sandwich actually costs 35% more than a usual sandwich made with real sausage. Customers would be more likely to gravitate towards the cheaper sandwich rather than pay more for something they feel isn't actually real meat. Yabrough also explained that it's "very hard" to convince meat eaters to try plant-based foods, which only adds to the naturally high price of producing "impossible" meat driving customers back. The Guardian also tells us that McDonald's McPlant saw very slow sales here in the United States. If customers are going to pay a lot for a burger or a sandwich, why not just spend it on an actual burger instead of something synthetic?

While this certainly isn't the death knell of the plant-based foods industry, it would seem the fast-food market tried to explore something that not many customers had an interest in. After all, if you're going to McDonald's, you're thinking McNuggets and Quarter Pounders, not plant-based alternatives for a vegan lifestyle.