Beef-less burger bull

Two days ago it was reported that Air New Zealand was going to serve a beef-less burger on a couple of flights, and it has prompted some political bull.

Stuff: Air New Zealand to serve plant-based burger on Los Angeles-Auckland flights

Our national carrier is the first airline in the world to partner with Impossible Foods, a Californian start-up whose non-meaty meat is stocked by more than 2500 restaurants across the US, from renowned chef David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi restaurant in New York to White Castle and Umami burger outlets.

There’s usually a burger on the Business Premier menu but Chave believes the Impossible Burger will appeal to all palates.

“Whether you’re a vegetarian, flexitarian or a hard-core meat lover, you’ll enjoy the delicious taste of the Impossible Burger.”

The burger, which is prepared in Air New Zealand’s Los Angeles kitchen and assembled at altitude, comes with two plant-based patties, smoked Gouda cheese, caramelised onions and a smear of tomatillo cream. Because fries don’t hold up in the air, it’s served with a side of beetroot relish and pickle.

Sounds like it could be quite nice. I had a delicious meatless burger in a Curio Bay cafe (in the far south of the South Island) last month.

It isn’t the only food option, and won’t be compulsory. It is a choice for Air New Zealand customers, who are using a US product when stocking up when in the US.

But for some reason it has irked some politicians here.

NZ First MP Mark Patterson put out a press release: Air New Zealand needs to review its decision to promote synthetic proteins

Air New Zealand has dealt another blow to regional New Zealand by promoting the meat substitute ‘Impossible Burger” says New Zealand First Primary Industries spokesperson, Mark Patterson.

Mr Patterson described the decision as a “Slap in the face” for New Zealand’s Nine Billion dollar Red Meat Sector. “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”.

“There has been widespread concern in the regions at the loss of services from provincial airports and now we have Air New Zealand actively promoting synthetic proteins which have a genetic modification component to them. This is not a good example of New Zealand Inc working together for the greater good.”

I don’t think regional New Zealand could economically supply food to flights originating in the US.

“Promoting a product that has the potential to pose an existential threat to New Zealand’s second biggest export earner” is a bit over the top.

NZ First leader and acting Prime Minister was also critical – RNZ Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters hits out at fake meat burger

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said he would not eat a burger with lab-made meat, particularly if there’s one with the real thing available.

“I’m utterly opposed to fake beef,” he said.

That’s his choice. No one is making him eat it.

Mr Peters said the farming industry was made up of New Zealand taxpayers who wanted to ensure they get the top end of the product market offshore.

“Our airline should be its number one marketer.”

Generally Air NZ does a very good job of promoting New Zealand and New Zealand produce.

It isn’t just NZ First MPs complaining.

A different response from Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor:

“Customers will ultimately make the decision as to whether they like this burger. In fact it may be a really good positive thing for the meat industry if people taste it, don’t like it and eat real meat.”

He’s right that customers, and businesses like Air NZ, should be able to decide for themselves, but he’s being a bit lame suggesting a positive from a negative response.

I thought that the Greens might be opposed to a GE meat substitute but apparently not.

However, the Green Party said a move away from eating so much meat would ultimately be a huge plus for the planet as it would help cut emissions, lead to less intensive farming, and improve animal welfare.

Would the Greens be happy with GE meat substitutes being grown in New Zealand laboratories?

I have concerns about concocted food products myself, but simple meatless burgers can be delicious and healthy without needing to be manufactured.

But, why the sudden interest in trying to act as nanny to airline menus?

I think that our MPs should have better things to do than manufacturing outrage over a non-problem that really is no of their business.