Delta Airlines is introducing plant-based meat to its menu for the first time this month. Passengers in Delta One (business class) and first class will have access to various cuisines on certain flights of 900 miles or more. Delta is introducing two new vegetarian options: the Impossible Burger (a plant-based patty rubbed with green chili spice and topped with caramelized onion chutney and Manchego cheese served on a brioche roll) and the Warm Seasonal Vegetable Plate (a plant-based patty rubbed with green chili spice and topped with caramelized onion chutney and Manchego cheese served on a brioche roll) (made with fresh broccolini, roasted button mushrooms, grilled heirloom carrots, grilled red onions, and roasted cherry tomatoes, served with herb-scented Israeli couscous and a non-vegan lemon herb butter).
Delta is presenting Impossible Meatballs in a Pomodoro Sauce with Orzo Risotto, Pesto Cream, Spinach, and Roasted Tomatoes for customers exiting the New York City region (both from JFK and LaGuardia airports)—a vegetarian meal given in cooperation with Union Square Events.
Pan-fried cauliflower cakes prepared with riced cauliflower, rapini, and dairy-based parmesan topped with creamy pesto orzo, roasted tomatoes, and toasted hazelnuts are available for travelers traveling from Seattle. Meatless lamb meatballs developed by local company Black Sheep Foods in collaboration with local mini-chain Souvla will be available on Delta flights departing from San Francisco. The Greek-inspired meal comes with spinach rice and feta cheese made from dairy.
Plant-Based Meat Is the Long-Term Solution
Delta’s menu change also has a sustainability component, considering that plant-based meat has a far lower carbon impact than its animal equivalent. Impossible’s plant-based alternatives need 75 percent less land, 85 percent less water, and 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than animal-derived foods, which account for up to 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
In comparison to conventionally farmed lamb, Black Sheep Lamb utilizes 98 percent less land, creates 95 percent less carbon emissions, and requires half as much water.
“Not only are plant-based meats like Impossible Burger delicious to eat, but they’re also often better for the environment, using far less land and water to produce… These new options are one part of Delta’s broader mission to promote a wellness-focused travel journey,” stated Kristen Manion Taylor, Senior Vice President of In-Flight Service at Delta.
Delta’s competitors have started to embrace plant-based meal alternatives in recent years, and not only for first-class customers. Vegan dishes, such as whole-wheat pasta with sautéed mushrooms, leek ratatouille with tomato sauce, and grilled veggies, were added to the main cabin of virtually all international Hawaiian Airlines flights in 2018.
During January, when many customers are engaging in Veganuary, United Emirates, a Middle Eastern airline, recorded a 40% increase in demand for vegan meals. Due to the high demand, the airline supplied 20,000 vegan meals throughout that month, including mushroom ravioli, vegetable tagine with couscous, and sweet potato, lentil, and spinach ragout with steaming brown rice, as well as dessert alternatives.
In addition to being on Delta’s in-flight menu, Black Sheep Foods‘ vegan lamb is now available in restaurants around the San Francisco Bay Area, where it first appeared on the menu at Greek chain Souvla last year. Using patent-pending taste compounds and components including textured pea protein, coconut oil, and cocoa butter, the business spent two years developing its meat-free lamb, resulting in a product that replicates the flavor and texture of its animal counterpart—without the huge environmental imprint.
While companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have created plant-based replacements to popular meats like beef and pork, Black Sheep Foods is focusing on wild and heritage meats. Due to their higher price tags, these meats are generally out of reach for most customers, which Black Sheep Foods hopes to change with its plant-based alternatives. The firm received $5.2 million in venture investment earlier this year to help democratize game meats with plant-based alternatives.
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