While Sonic Drive-In has been serving up 1950s-style burgers, fries and shakes since, well, the 1950s, a new item making its way to the menu is decidedly 21st century -- the Slinger, made with a blended beef-and-mushroom patty. Come August, when the burger debuts for a two-month trial run at an unannounced number of locations, Sonic will be the first fast food chain to test a so-called "blended burger," Fast Company reports.
In Sonic's case, the burger is made with beef as its main ingredient, along with 25 to 30 percent mushrooms and some seasonings, then topped traditionally with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mayo and mustard on a brioche bun.
Sonic will be the first fast food chain to experiment with the mushroom/meat patty, but many in the restaurant world have already taken notice of the unlikely combination's potential, not only culinarily, but environmentally as well.
The James Beard Foundation, for example, has partnered with the Mushroom Council for the Blended Burger project, which has chefs from all over the U.S. competing to make the best burger using at least 25 percent mushrooms in the contest's third iteration.
Blended burgers could also have some serious environmental impacts. A third-party study run for the Mushroom Council estimates the production of a pound of mushrooms has a carbon dioxide footprint of 0.7 pounds, while a pound of beef has a CO2 footprint of 12.3 pounds -- big difference.
"We wanted to offer a flavorful and juicy blended mushroom burger, the first of its kind for a major [quick service restaurant] brand, that offers improved sustainability," said Scott Uehlein, vice president of product innovation and development at Sonic.
Furthermore, since it's still mostly beef, these blended patties are likely to have a wider appeal than 100 percent plant-based veggie burgers. The main focus here is taste, rather than the burger's environmental or health benefits.
"Because it is still mostly beef, this burger has a broader appeal versus a completely vegetarian burger patty," Uehlein said.