Panda Express is piloting Beyond Meat orange chicken in select locations

Just under a week after Beyond Meat announced that it will be releasing a reworked version of its plant-based Chicken Tenders at restaurants in the U.S., the faux meat company has returned with a potentially sizable restaurant partnership.

Starting July 26, select Panda Express restaurants in Southern California and New York City will offer an orange chicken dish using Beyond’s chicken product. It’s a big potential partnership for Beyond, as the Asian American fast food chain currently has 2,200 locations, largely in food courts and other high-traffic spots.

It could also be a big step for Panda Express, which has traditionally had fairly limited vegetarian options. You know it’s a bit dire for veggies when the press release lists “steamed white and brown rice” as two of its six “plant-based dishes.”

Image Credits: Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat isn’t calling it a pilot, exactly, but notes in an email to TechCrunch, “we are confident that people will love the new menu item and we will keep our guests updated with information on additional rollouts.” One assumes a larger rollout depends on early feedback and perceived consumer demand for a non-meat-based main dish.

“Beyond The Original Orange Chicken is the next step in the brand’s journey to offer more diverse and plant-based options, while still delivering comfort and crave-ability in innovative ways,” Panda Express’  chef Jimmy Wang said in a release tied to the soft launch. “Creating a fresh new take on a classic favorite is a great and accessible way to introduce plant-based proteins to our guests and perhaps even drawing a new audience for Panda.”

Baby steps, but anything that helps reduce meat consumption is probably a net positive. . Beyond also has deals with  Pizza Hut, KFC, Denny’s and Dunkin’ for its various plant-based meat substitutes.