Current purchasing habits of plant-based fast-food items save approximately 140,000 pigs and 110,000 cows from slaughter annually, according to new research. Ben Williamson—the head of United States programs at animal welfare group World Animal Protection—analyzed purchasing data at 18 fast-food chains that serve Impossible Foods’ plant-based meat (including Burger King, Fatburger, White Castle, Qdoba and Red Robin) and nine national chains that serve Beyond Meat’s vegan products (such as Dunkin’, Denny’s, Subway, Del Taco, and TGI Friday’s) to find that many meat eaters are opting for plant-based alternatives. “Until recently, the ‘X’ factor has been that we don’t know who is eating these new plant-based sausages and burgers,” Williamson says. “Both survey and anecdotal research suggests that the vast majority of Impossible and Beyond purchases are from would-be meat-eaters, so the animal impact is very real and very estimable.” While Williamson points out that saving nearly a quarter of a million animals from slaughter is a move in the right direction, he acknowledges that it is only a fraction of the 120 million pigs and 30 million cows killed for food in the US annually. However, with the introduction of new products (such as new Beyond Meat vegan chicken products expected to debut next year) in foodservice and retail channels, Williamson says the outlook is positive. “We expect to see these numbers continue to increase in 2020 as more Beyond and Impossible products are rolled out nationwide and more restaurants introduce their own in-house versions,” Williamson says. “Plus, the next generation of available plant-based products will focus on chicken and fish and because these are smaller animals, they are processed in significantly higher numbers, this is when we’ll really see the numbers soar.”

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