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McDonald’s famous Double Big Mac burger has the same climate impact as driving 24 kilometres in a car, a new analysis has found. The report, which examined the fast food giant’s menu in the UK using a carbon calculator, also showed that the vegan McPlant bears just a fraction of the footprint and is equivalent to driving less than 1.6 kilometres.
A new analysis has revealed the hefty carbon footprint of many of McDonald’s meat-laden dishes. The data has been drawn up by the Mirror, which used the carbon calculator Plate Up for the Planet to determine the emissions of each dish by inputting the weight of each ingredient used.
The calculator is operated by the Vegan Society and Planet Friendly Foods, and estimates the emissions from “field to plate”—everything from the resources needed to produce the ingredients to food processing and transportation.
Double Big Mac: the most polluting of all
According to the data, the most polluting of all items on McDonald’s UK menu is the dual-pattied Double Big Mac, which is unsurprising, given the huge amount of resources needed to produce beef.
Beef is one of the most emissions-intensive animal protein products, mainly due to methane emissions caused by cow’s burps. Altogether, animal agriculture is responsible for nearly a fifth of all GHG emissions—more than all global transportation combined.
The carbon calculator showed that the Double Big Mac causes the same amount of CO2 equivalent to a 14.95 mile or 24 kilometre journey in an average UK petrol car. By contrast, the McPlant burger, which is served 100% vegan in the UK market, causes just a fraction at 0.29 kilograms of CO2 equivalent. That’s the same as driving just 0.97 miles or under 1.6 kilometres.
McDonald’s classic Big Mac causes around 2.35 kilograms of CO2, same as driving nearly 8 miles or 12.7 kilometres in a car.
Go for the McPlant to be climate-friendly
So next time you decide to swing by to McDonald’s for your fast food burger fix, go for the McPlant for a carbon-friendly option.
The burger, which the company first revealed it was developing with food tech giant Beyond Meat back in November 2020, is made from pea protein and contains no animal-based ingredients. So far, McDonald’s has rolled out McPlant trials within European markets, including Denmark, Sweden and Austria.
While the other markets have launched vegetarian-friendly McPlants that feature dairy cheese and egg-based mayonnaise, the McPlant in the UK market is 100% vegan. It has been cooked on a separate grill and using dedicated utensils, in order to avoid cross contamination with animal-based products and ingredients.
For eco-conscious diners who may not be in markets where the McPlant is available, other fast food chains have also debuted plant-based options, which is generally far more carbon-friendly than items that contain meat.
Burger King, for instance, has launched the Plant Based Whopper globally, partnering with brands like Unilever’s The Vegetarian Butcher in Europe and China, and Australian startup v2food in various Asian markets such as Japan. KFC has also introduced plant-based fried chicken in Thailand and China.
All images courtesy of McDonald’s, unless otherwise credited.