Air New Zealand's meatless 'Impossible Burger' upsets beef industry

When New Zealand's national airline decided to plug a Silicon Valley venture's meatless burger, it seemed little more than a bit of eye-catching PR.

But in a country where farming is a cornerstone of the economy and, for some, a matter of national pride, a stoush over the decision has reached the top echelons of power.

Air New Zealand this week announced it would be serving food tech start-up Impossible Foods' plant-based burger to business customers flying from Los Angeles to Auckland, producing a video and flying journalists over for the promotion.

It didn't take long for the news to ruffle feathers at home.

From politicians to industry lobby groups, patriotic sighs of disappointment came in, questioning why a taxpayer owned company was endorsing an American product over homegrown meat.

"We produce the most delicious steaks and lamb on the planet," the National Party's Nathan Guy declared.

"The national carrier should be pushing our premium products."

The head of industry lobby group Beef and Lamb New Zealand said Kiwi farmers would be justified in feeling upset and let down, and the Federated Farmers group said there were domestic products that could have been promoted instead.

And so the country's acting prime minister, Winston Peters, stepped in, his populist NZ First Party calling for the airline to review its decision and saying it was a "slap in the face".

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"I'm utterly opposed to fake beef," Mr Peters, the deputy prime minister standing in for Jacinda Ardern - on maternity leave - told reporters.

"Some of the taxpayers are the farming industry who want to ensure they get top end of the product market offshore and our airline should be its number one marketer."

But Air NZ is making no apologies and says it's just offering choices.

It said it had served beef and lamb burgers on its menu since 2011, with more than a million New Zealand-sourced meats dishes handed out in the past year, and would still be keeping the "tried and true" on the menu for those who weren't into the new vegan option.

Total beef and lamb exports out of New Zealand are tipped to each pass the $NZ3 billion ($A2.7 billion) mark this year, with the products sold as premium quality in overseas markets.

The Impossible Burger is sold in about 2500 restaurants across the United States and the company says its goal is to make food more sustainable. It says the burger creates about 87 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than those made from cows.

AAP

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