Photo courtesy of Impossible Foods

As we look back over the last year in food one thing is clear: From Burger King’s national rollout of the Impossible Whopper to Dunkin’s expansion of its Beyond Sausage Sandwich to more than 9,000 stores, 2019 was the year that fast food fell in love with meat alternatives.

But aside from all the hype and marketing, what do all these efforts mean for the numbers of animals spared from lifetimes of misery on factory farms? New research from international animal welfare organization, World Animal Protection, shows that the equivalent of around 140,000 pigs and 110,000 cows—or a quarter-million total animals— per year are being saved from the food system as a result of fast food’s love of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.

At least nine national Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) are currently serving Beyond Meat (including Denny’s, Subway, Del Taco, and TGI Friday’s) and around 18 are serving Impossible Foods (including Fatburger, White Castle, Qdoba, and Red Robin).

“Until recently, the X factor has been that we don’t know who is eating these new plant-based sausages and burgers,” says Ben Williamson, US Programs Director and lead author of the research. “Both survey and anecdotal research suggest 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”.

“Crunching the numbers shows us that between Impossible and Beyond estimated sales at national chain restaurants, around 140,000 pigs and 110,000 cows—or a quarter-million total—will exit the food system every year” continues Williamson. “This may sound a lot, but it is a fraction of the 120 million pigs and 30 million cows killed for food in the U.S. every year and sold in groceries, supermarkets, and other foodservice industries.”

Each of these statistics represents an animal’s life saved from factory farms; being spared from painful mutilations like teeth clipping, tail docking, and castration, as well as a life of spent in cruel confinement. By consuming fewer animal-based meats, we are able to free up resources to move to higher welfare production and improve the lives of billions of farmed animals.”

“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 inhouse versions,” says Williamson. “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.”