I had my first McPlant burger at the weekend, and it was a surprise. A complete surprise.
The McPlant has had a limited release in the UK within the last couple of months to much fanfare; it is a completely plant based, vegan friendly alternative to the standard McDonalds offering. I was aware of its existence, but living where I do, it’s not been available for me to try, and to be honest, I have been skipping the fast food scene for the last couple of months anyway as part of my live healthy, live longer phase. Kill me now.
So, at the weekend, I found myself driving in East London with a passenger that had a hankering for a fast food fix, so I duly pulled into the Bow McDonalds Drive-Thru to order. I was going to skip but the McPlant caught my eye, so I felt I had to give it a try.
I collected the order and pulled into a bay and got the box out of the bag. The size of the box was an immediate disappointment; it was roughly the same size as a Fillet o Fish box and the burger was roughly the same size. I was hoping for something of similar proportion to the Big Mac, alas, it was not to be. Upon opening and inspection, it looked like a regular burger; the patty, pickles, sauce, processed cheese and white bun, all looked reasonably normal.
Taking a bite, the taste was pretty good, I raised an eyebrow and started gibbering at my passenger in disbelief, I was expecting it to taste like crap. It wasn’t as far away from a regular burger as it could have been, the thing I really noticed was the texture of the patty, it was a fair bit mushier. Excitedly I kept waving the half eaten thing at my accomplice, offering it up to them to try some, saying that they wouldn’t believe how it tasted. They politely refused.
So, all in all, it is a more than passable effort. Okay, I was fairly impressed. Now the questions start to crop up in my mind; how the hell do they take bunch of plants, process it, and make a vegan product taste like one made from animal products? The mayo, the cheese, the meat substitute. Surely there’s a heck of a lot of layers of processing going on there? I just did a search for the meat substitute used in the McPlant, apparently it’s provided by a company called Beyond Meat. A few clicks shows what look like reasonably harmless ingredients, but a few more clicks shows that there’s a lot of strong opinions out there that they may not necessarily be as good for you as you would expect.
I’m not going to drill into this point, there’s no shortage of for and against opinions out there, and it will be one hell of a rabbit hole to disappear into.
We know that McDonalds isn’t good, wholesome food, we’ve seen films like Supersize Me, we’ve seen the hidden camera expose, we’ve seen the Jamie Oliver and his mate Jimmy’s documentaries, we’ve read accounts from disgruntled former staff about how the stuff is made. We know it’s nutritionally shit, we know it’s stacked with fat, salt and sugar, but because of this, it tastes amazing, and we know this. And for this reason, it is a guilty pleasure for millions of people nationally.
Things have changed over the last few decades, we’ve seen McDonalds stop frying its fries in beef tallow, and swap to vegetable oil, somehow, amazingly, they managed to keep the taste the same. Shocker. If you buy a Big Mac in the US that is made from US beef, then go to the UK and buy one made from UK beef, they taste almost identical. Shocker. There’s obviously some magic going on, what magic it is, I am not smart enough to work out, but it is clever stuff.
And now we have the McPlant, a pretty wholesome sounding name.
Until recent years, I have been a complete carnivore, I’ve not really given vegetarians or vegans much consideration. We were born with canines, right? Those lovely teeth for ripping flesh apart? This alone completely supported my position, meat is good, and it is an important part of the human diet. I’d walk across hot coals to get my hands on a perfectly cooked fillet steak.
A while back I was chatting to a vegetarian and they offered a compelling explanation as to why they choose to not eat meat, or flesh as they called it. I started to understand their position, and I got it. I won’t get into what that was, that’s for another time, but I got it. Since then, I have started to reduce my meat intake; I eat less, but what I do eat is better quality. It’s not been difficult to do at all.
This brings me to my point in an unfocused, meandering way;
These burgers, like the McPlant exist for a reason. People don’t want to eat meat, or animal products. But they are happy to pay over the odds for a highly processed product that is made to look like meat, smell like meat, and taste like meat, and it could possibly be less healthier than the meat alternative.
And it’s being served by an organisation that slaughters millions of cattle, pigs and chickens every year, and that has questionable environmental credentials.
Reflecting, I just don’t get it. If you’re going to go to all of that trouble, just eat the meat right? That’s what you’re hankering for, so stop the torture, just do it. Or don’t.
I don’t think I’ll be going back for a McPlant, as clever as it was. I don’t think I’ll be going back to McDonalds for myself at all.
Me and Mac’s are done. I can’t say that I won’t miss it, but it was fun whilst it lasted.