Vegan News of the Week: Burger King’s Black Bean Burger, Chicken Run Nuggets, and More

It seems that every week in the world of vegan news is more exciting than the last, and this week is no exception. 

Exploring some heady themes about factory farming, Chicken Run: The Rise of the Nugget is sure to make some viewers into vegans—and Alpha Foods will release plant-based nuggets to help them make the transition.

Plus, Veganuary will get a great boost this year with new options at Burger King and Papa John’s. 

As the end of the year approaches, we’ve got health on the mind and it looks like science continues to point to plant-based diets as the best for health. And on January 1, a new Netflix doc, You Are What You Eat, will delve deeper into this topic. Read on for more. 

Vegan food and tech news

Food-technology company The Every Co. has caught the eye of Molly Baz, food influencer and former senior food editor at Bon Appétit. Made using precision fermentation, the company’s Every Egg has a wide range of applications from omelets to crème brûlée. 

Baz was impressed with dishes made with this animal-free egg at New York City’s famed Michelin-starred restaurant Eleven Madison Park, which went plant-based under the direction of chef-owner Daniel Humm back in 2021. 

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In more food-tech news, alternative protein startup Steakholder Foods just unveiled a world-first: 3D-printed plant-based eel. 

This development, utilizing the company’s proprietary 3D-printing technology, aims to address the sustainability challenges faced by the global eel market, valued at $4.3 billion. Consumed most prominently in Japan, wild eel is facing overexploitation and extinction while farming eel is problematic for myriad reasons, including the animal’s complex life cycle. 

“The launch of our printed eel marks a pivotal moment in the seafood industry, showcasing the vast potential of our DropJet technology,” Arik Kaufman, CEO of Steakholder Foods, said in a statement. 

The company’s unique printing process reduces ingredient use compared to typical plant-based alternatives, positioning it as a potential industry leader. Steakholder Foods is exploring partnerships for commercialization, offering proprietary 3D printers and ink to produce 3D-printed eel at competitive prices. 

“This technology is designed to enable partners to generate products on a potential industrial scale of hundreds of tons monthly, not only at lower costs compared to wild eel, but also with the flexibility to create a variety of printed products using the same production line,” Kaufman said. 

“Such versatility could significantly boost profitability for food companies and lead the way to a shift towards more efficient and sustainable practices in the industry,” Kaufman said.  

Currently made with plant ingredients, the product is expected to include cultivated eel cells in the future.

Animated film Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is already set to be a vegan-maker and now, Alpha Foods is jumping on board with new plant-based nuggets to help you quit the bird for good. 

Alpha Foods has teamed up with Aardman Animations for the release of this sequel to the beloved 2000s classic, offering a limited-edition version of its plant-based nuggets. These special nuggets come in packaging featuring characters from the film, along with the message: “Choose plants—No Fowl Play!” 

Available in stores nationwide from March, this initiative aligns with Alpha’s mission to provide meatless, cruelty-free, and environmentally friendly options.

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“We think this partnership with a studio like Aardman is a tasty intersection of food and film,” Shingly Lee, Alpha Foods Marketing Director, said in a statement. “We are excited to be a part of this iconic movie franchise and we look forward to more high-profile collaborations in 2024.”

“Alpha is committed to pushing boundaries and bringing quality and innovation to the category, and this exciting partnership is just the beginning,” she said. 

Vegan restaurant news

To start Veganuary off right, several fast-food chains are offering new plant-based options. At Papa John’s in the United Kingdom, a new plant-based barbecue chicken pizza has hit the menu. 

This new offering, available from January 2, features vegan “Sheese,” plant-based chicken slices, mushrooms, onions, and a barbecue drizzle. Building on previous successes like the Ve-Du-Ya and Hot Pepper pizza, this addition is part of Papa John’s commitment to expanding its vegan menu. 

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“We know our customers will be exploring meat-free alternatives this January, so we’re delighted to start the new year with an extended vegan menu,” Senior Marketing Director Rebecca Rose said in a statement, adding that the vegan chicken can be ordered on all Papa John’s pizzas. 

Alongside the pizza, Papa John’s offers vegan sides and a promotional deal of 60-percent off pizzas to encourage more customers to try its plant-based options.

Burger King is also getting into the Veganuary groove with the return of its black bean burger in the UK. The chain is responding to extensive customer demand with the new and improved Ultimate Bean Burger, which officially hits the UK menu on January 3. This revival, driven by fans’ petitions and social media appeals, is part of Burger King’s effort to cater to vegetarians and flexitarians, especially during Veganuary. 

The Ultimate Bean Burger, packed with vegetables like black beans, mushrooms, sweet red pepper, and green chili, can be made vegan-friendly by removing the cheese. 

“It’s been amazing to see so much love for our Bean Burger, so we’re beyond excited to finally be bringing it back to menus.” Katie Evans, Marketing Director at Burger King UK, said in a statement. 

This reintroduction aligns with Burger King’s goal to achieve a 50-percent meat-free menu by 2030. 

While McDonald’s sorts out its plant-based plans, a new vegan contender is coming to the fast-food market. Dr. Seed is a virtual hybrid restaurant that just began operations in France and Belgium. 

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This innovative brand operates with its own web app, bypassing conventional aggregator platforms and offers a unique dining experience through a QR code system for mobile ordering and payment. 

The brand’s strategy includes the concept of a “restaurant within a restaurant,” that serves vegan takes on familiar fast-food items such as the Big Mac (called “Big Seed” here) along with plant-based Filet-O-’Dish (“Seed Fish”), meatless Whopper (“King Seed”) and more.  

Vegan health news

Many people refocus on their health come January, and the good news is that science keeps pointing to plants as the key to optimal health. 

The latest example? A new study found that 75 percent of type 2 diabetes instances can be avoided by following a healthy lifestyle with a plant-based diet at the center. 

The research, involving more than 113,000 participants, shows that a 24-percent reduction in diabetes risk is achievable with a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, even when accounting for factors like genetic predisposition and obesity. 

“Our study is the first to identify biomarkers of central metabolic processes and organ functions as mediators of the health effects of a plant-based diet,” lead study author Tilman Kühn from MedUni Vienna’s Center for Public Health, said in a statement. 

Additionally, the study highlights the importance of reducing the intake of not just animal-based, but also industrially processed and sugary foods, underlining the role of improved liver and kidney functions in diabetes prevention.

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Younger generations are drinking more plant-based milk these days—and researchers are looking to make them even more nutritious. In a study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, researchers revealed that they have enhanced the nutritional value and taste of plant-based milks using simple pretreatment methods. 

By pre-freezing and applying ultrasound treatment to raw materials such as soy, rice, oats, and peas, the study achieved up to a 100 percent increase in the extraction of microelements such as iron, potassium, and zinc, and a 15 to 20 percent increase in polyphenol content, which are key to protecting against various diseases. 

Did you catch the study about how 21 sets of identical twins followed an omnivore vs vegan diet to determine which one’s best for health? If not, the research was made into a binge-worthy documentary series, You Are What You Eat, which you can watch on Netflix.

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