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Air NZ has started serving the Impossible Burger as a menu option on its twice-daily Business Premier flights from Los Angeles to Auckland.
The US-made product is plant-based, but has a meat-like texture and tastes and "bleeds" like meat.
The foodstuff has unexpectedly become a political issue, with Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters saying Air NZ should be promoting top-end New Zealand meat products rather than the US faux burger.
The uproar over the burger was dismaying, Dunedin surgeon Mark Smith, who specialises in surgery on the obese, said.
"I'm not saying that we should all stop eating meat or dairy, but I think it's important to acknowledge that we could all do with a bit less meat or dairy in our diet," Dr Smith said.
"That would be beneficial for our health in many ways, especially concerning obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Dr Smith, a pisceterian, said meat-free burgers should be seen as a positive rather than "the end of all we hold true."
There was ample evidence that the amount of meat and dairy in the Western diet was unhealthy and should be reduced, Dr Smith said.
"Obesity is one of the leading causes of premature death and disability in New Zealand, and three out of 10 New Zealanders suffer from obesity."
Meat production was also an unsustainable drain on natural resources, and the world's growing population meant alternatives to traditional meat production needed to be explored, Dr Smith said.
Coincidentally, the New Zealand Government has recently been exploring these exact issues, and last month the Ministry for Primary Industries released three reports on alternative meat products - including the Impossible Burger.
The research, conducted jointly with Plant & Food Research. was intended to ensure traditional New Zealand meat products were able to survive changes in consumer habits.
"In order for New Zealand to retain a competitive edge in our primary exports, we want to ensure we are looking ahead at what the future consumer might demand in our products and what opportunities are available for our sector," Jocelyn Eason, general manager science food innovation at Plant & Food Research, said.
The Impossible Burger case study report found the product had made considerable steps, but further innovation would be needed before it posed a threat to the beef burger's pre-eminence.