Burger King is making the “almost vegan” Rebel Whopper available nationwide in the UK from tomorrow 8th January. However, the plant-based burger, which was developed with The Vegetarian Butcher, will be cooked on the same grills as the more traditional meat whoppers.
So according to Burger King “due to the shared cooking equipment, it may not be suitable for vegetarians”.
The soy-based product is therefore not being marketed as a vegan product. It is aimed at flexitarians – people who like to eat a predominantly vegetarian diet but who sometimes eat meat and fish. Such people would not care about their veggie burger possibly being contaminated by animal juices. For them, the suffering of animals that led to that juice being created is irrelevant.
The burger will, therefore, appeal to those who wish to eat a more vegan-friendly diet even if it is not totally suitable for strict vegans.
Non-vegan product is on-balance beneficial to the vegan philosophy?
Nevertheless, the consumption of these burgers, notwithstanding how they are cooked, will reduce the overall level of animal suffering. Flexitarians choosing a plant-based option will contribute to less animal suffering and less of an environmental strain on the planet. So, for this reason, many vegans welcome the Rebel Burger even if they personally might not eat it.
Toni Vernelli, Veganuary’s head of communications and marketing was one such person who welcomed this non-vegan plant-based offering.
She insists that “increasing the availability of plant-based options” is the best way to reduce meat consumption. “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good,” she added.
Other vegans take a different perspective and see not using a different grill as a missed opportunity.
Other vegans will simply not consider supporting a multi-national who has made the bulk of its profits from meat.
In terms of a missed opportunity, it is hard to understand why Burger King is providing standard mayonnaise as the default topping for the plant-based burger. A flexitarian, or a vegan who is relaxed about the grill, will specifically have to ask for vegan mayonnaise.
McDonald’s recently adopted a different approach when it launched its recent vegan meal. That particular fast-food chain decided that it would commit to changing its kitchen arrangements to ensure that there could be no possible cross-contamination. This product has therefore received a Vegan Society accreditation.
It will be interesting to see how consumers and the market differentiates between these opposing attitudes.
Katie Evans, A Burger King Marketing Director, Katie Evans, described the Rebel Whopper as a “game changer”.
“We wanted our first plant-based Whopper to replicate the indulgence and flame-grilled taste of the real thing as closely as possible, and we’re thrilled with the result,” said Evans. “We’re delighted to satisfy the demand for this highly-anticipated product and finally bring the Rebel to the UK.”
Burger King has already successfully introduced the vegan Impossible Whopper in the USA. It is the subject of a lawsuit from a disgruntled vegan who took objection to that burger being cooked on the same grill as a meat burger. Many commentators have been extremely critical of that plaintiff’s actions as being detrimental overall to the vegan cause.