McDonald’s Puts Plant-Based Pork on the Menu

More than 400 McDonald’s locations in Hong Kong and Macau have launched a vegetarian menu centered around OmniPork Luncheon, a vegan alternative to SPAM.

The meat-free menu features six breakfast items, including OmniPork Luncheon and Scrambled Egg Burger, OmniPork Luncheon & Egg Cheesy Toastie, and a breakfast platter with pancakes, scrambled eggs, and hash browns.

The launch is a collaboration between Green Monday, a Hong Kong-based platform with a mission similar to Meatless Mondays, and OmniFoods, a food-tech startup launched to cater to East Asian cuisine. Most know OmniFoods for its OmniPork, vegan ground pork made from pea, soy, shiitake mushroom, and soy protein. The company introduced OmniPork Luncheon, which is made from the same protein blend, in May. McDonald’s has cut its version thicker than the retail version, giving it a meatier texture.

“This is not a limited time offer, not a limited shop offer. This is long term for all of Hong Kong and Macau,” said David Yeung, OmniFoods CEO and co-founder, before the launch. “I’ve got to say this is the most monumental plant-based protein collaboration with a QSR [quick service restaurant]. No question this is the biggest in Asia, and absolutely one of the biggest in the world. This is groundbreaking.”

OmniPork is available in more than 400 McDonald’s locations across Hong Kong and Macau. | Green Monday

Small Steps Towards Sustainability

As Yeung notes, the launch breaks new ground. It marks McDonald’s Hong Kong’s first vegetarian menu while U.S. locations have yet to introduce any substantial plant-based options (and not even the fries are vegan due to beef fat).

The OmniPork Luncheon menu caters specifically to Hong Kong palates. SPAM rose to popularity in East Asia after World War II. This was likely due to the fact that it was the main source of protein for American soldiers stationed in the Philippines.

Considering that McDonald’s has 38,000 locations worldwide, the launch is a small step. But it may signal that the chain is slowly easing its way into more sustainable food.

McDonald’s locations in the UK, Germany, Norway, Finland, and Sweden have vegan options. It’s also rumored that UK restaurants may launch the Beyond Burger made by California-based brand Beyond Meat. Earlier this year, McDonald’s trialed the burger at 52 locations in Ontario, Canada, sharing that it would help the chain better understand the “real-world implications” of serving a plant-based option.

Is the Fast Food Industry Changing?

Sustainability is a growing concern among many businesses, including restaurants. Animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. Many studies have shown that plant-based food’s carbon footprint is significantly lower.

Meat and cheese still rule fast food menus, but McDonald’s isn’t alone in its pursuit of meatless options. Burger King has the Impossible Whopper. Pizza Hut Australia just added vegan wings to the menu. KFC has trialed vegan fried chicken developed by Beyond Meat.

Last week, KFC China announced a three-week run of the Beyond Burger—a follow-up of a successful trial with Yum China, parent company to KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, over the summer. KFC locations in Hong Kong and China have also dabbled in plant-based chicken. The fried chicken giant is even developing cell-based chicken meat in Russia.

While these are baby steps in the grand scope of things, they shouldn’t be underplayed. It’s a sign of change happening in the industry. So maybe one day, fast food restaurants won’t be looking at ways to bioengineer cows that generate fewer greenhouse gases—they’ll be actively taking beef off the menu.