Vegan Burger Poses 'Existential Threat' to New Zealand

The Impossible Burger
The Impossible Burger | © Impossible Foods
Photo of Alice Johnston
Food Editor3 August 2018

A vegetarian burger that ‘bleeds’ is at the centre of a controversy, having been accused of posing an “existential threat” to New Zealand’s beef industry.

New Zealand Air’s choice to serve an American-made soy-based burger has been criticised by acting Prime Minister Winston Peters, who said that the airline should be supporting the country by using real animal products sourced in New Zealand. Peters stated that he is “utterly opposed to fake beef.”

The burger in question was made famous by chef David Chang. Produced by American company Impossible Foods, it contains a molecule from the roots of soy plants called heme. The molecular structure and iron content of heme means that, when it’s formed into a patty and cooked, it smells, tastes and looks like beef. Heme is the blood-like substance that spills out of the vegan burger when it’s cut. Along with that, the Impossible Foods creation also contains wheat, coconut oil and potatoes.

Would you eat a bleeding vegan burger? | © Impossible Foods

The ruling New Zealand First party issued a statement saying that the veggie burger could pose “an existential threat to New Zealand’s second biggest export earner” and was a “slap in the face” to the country’s red-meat industry, which is worth NZ$9 billion (£5bn, or $6bn).

The party’s spokesperson, Mark Patterson, said: “We have Air New Zealand actively promoting synthetic proteins which have a genetic modification component to them. This is not a good example of New Zealand Inc working together for the greater good.”

National Party MP Nathan Guy tweeted his displeasure: “Disappointing to see Air NZ promoting a GE substitute meat burger on its flights to the USA,” he wrote. “We produce the most delicious steaks & lamb on the planet – GMO & hormone free. The national carrier should be pushing our premium products and helping sell NZ to the world.”

Air New Zealand responded to the comments saying that their choice to serve the burger posed no threat to New Zealand’s meat industry.

“In the past year alone, we proudly served around 1.3 million New Zealand sourced beef and lamb meals to customers from around the world,” they said. “Air New Zealand makes no apology for offering innovative product choices for its customers and will continue to do so in the future.”

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