Airline Serving Fake Meat Burger Infuriates New Zealand Prime Minister

The Impossible Burger, a plant-based burger, is being served on Air New Zealand and it has caused an outcry from politicians and beef producers.
( Impossible Foods/Air New Zealand )

Air New Zealand is in the crosshairs of New Zealand's acting Prime Minister Winston Peters after the airline announced plans to offer a fake meat burger on an international flight.

On July 3, Air New Zealand announced that it would be serving the plant-based Impossible Burger on flights from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand. The burger made from an iron-containing molecule called heme which comes from the roots of soy plants is available on the Business Premier menu.

“We're confident vegetarians, flexitarians and dedicated meat lovers alike will enjoy the delicious taste of the Impossible Burger, but for those who want to stay with the tried and true it will sit alongside our regular selection of menu items prepared by our talented culinary team and consultant chefs,” says Air New Zealand's Inflight Customer Experience Manager Niki Chave.

Air New Zealand is the first airline to serve the Impossible Burger on flights. 

The announcement has been met with criticism from beef producers and politicians in New Zealand, including the acting Prime Minister.

Peters is “utterly opposed to fake beef” and wants to see products from New Zealand featured on the menu.

“Some of the taxpayers are the farming industry who want to ensure they get top end of the product market offshore and our airline should be its number one marketer,” Peters says. He is currently serving as the Prime Minster while Jacinda Ardern is on maternity leave.

Members of Parliament in New Zealand have also called for the airline to change its tactics with New Zealand First party member Mark Patterson leading the outcry.

“The national carrier should be showcasing our premium quality grass-fed New Zealand red meat, not promoting a product that has the potential to pose an existential threat to New Zealand's second biggest export earner," says Patterson, a fourth generation beef and sheep farmer.

National Party member Nathan Guy who serves as a spokesperson for agriculture, biosecurity and food safety shared his displeasure with the decision on Twitter.

“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 New Zealand to the world,” Guy tweeted.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand CEO Zam McIvor released his monthly statement and mentioned the controversy.

“Air New Zealand’s decision reinforces the challenges our sector faces and the importance of the levy proposal, which is focused on telling our story better both from a marketing and environmental perspective.  There are a huge amount of misconceptions out there about agricultural production,” McIvor says.

A few days later McIvor gave a presentation at FarmSmart 2018 in Christchurch, New Zealand where he talked about the emergence of plant-based and lab-grown meat and what it means for livestock production.

Impossible Foods just built a new manufacturing plant that can produce 10,000 million burger patties per month and has its burger in nearly 2,500 restaurants. McIvor says that might be quite a few but in the U.S. everyday 100 million burgers are consumed. 

“We need to put it in context, but we also need to be leery of the movement,” McIvor says of alternative proteins. “I’m amazed at the momentum and speed at which it is growing.”

The full presentation can be watched below:

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