Forget two all-beef patties on a sesame seed bun. McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) is going vegetarian.
Well, in India at least. The fast food chain is opening two meatless outlets in the northern cities of Amritsar and Katra next year as a push to attract religious Indians to its restaurants.
So is this a one-off deal for the Golden Arches or the beginning of something larger?
Well, McDonald’s in particular aside, the meatless move could soon be a necessity. To start, there’s the issue of water. The Stockholm International Water Institute, for example, explains that, “There will not be enough water on current croplands to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in western nations.”
Which, of course, has a lot to do with the large amounts of meat consumed in western nations. Americans, for example, consume around double the recommended consumption of meat per capita.
And processing meat requires up to ten times the amount of water needed to process vegetarian foods. Plus, one-third of the world’s arable land is used to grow crops for animal feed, putting us a collision course with food and water shortages.
Already, there are nearly 1 billion people globally who don’t have enough to eat — and if we continue to ignore the reality of the situation, that number could easily double by 2050.
McGill University researcher Navin Ramankutty, for one, suggests that if all prime cropland was used for growing food for humans instead of for cars and cows, the world’s food supply could double. That in itself it a tempting offer for a farewell to Big Macs and hello to a vegetarian diet.
Which brings us back to the original point: Does any of this matter to McDonald’s? Is the fast food giant at the forefront of a looming trend?
UK vegetarian food blogger Adharanand Finn doesn’t think the move is motivated by anything more than economics: 40% of Indians are vegetarian and profits are falling in the country.
Plus, McDonald’s restaurants in India are already 50% vegetarian. It’s not much of a stretch to go all-out with the shift.
Others feel that because McDonald’s slaughters cows, which are sacred in India, anything but a meatless outlet is a deliberate insult to Hindus — making the move a matter of public relations and nothing more.
But still, McDonald’s is far from stupid — and I’m sure it knows all the facts and figures that I just spewed out. And these two locations present the perfect case study for future vegetarian-only expansion in other parts of India and the rest of the world.
Don’t expect to hear much about these two locations in the near future, as McDonald’s probably wants to perfect the concept before bringing the media in for a look. But still, whatever happens, the company always adapts to change.
With this new offering, it is helping to lay the groundwork for the inevitable global shift to a vegetarian-influenced lifestyle. In the end, our very existence could depend on it.
As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.