In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit upfront that I am a semi-vegan, that is, I'm fully vegan (eating plant-based food solely) during the week, then on weekends I go off the wagon -- adding seafood, eggs, and dairy to the mix. Fortunately for this writer, coffee is vegan, because I drink a lot of that all week long.

According to recent studies, 6 percent of Americans now identify themselves as vegan -- an increase of 600 percent from 2014. According to a report on food trends published by research firm Global Data, "Rising veganism and awareness of the impact of meat consumption are driving demand for meat-free substitutes."

It's no surprise then that vegans are now on the radar of America's largest food companies, and that includes McDonald's, which sells more than 1 billion pounds of beef each year in the U.S. alone.

Which brings us back to McDonald's stunning announcement of its new McVegan burger. After testing in Sweden during fall 2017, the McVegan burger -- featuring a soy-based patty was created by McDonald's with Swedish vegan food company Anamma -- the item was permanently added to the menu of McDonald's restaurants in Finland and Sweden in December 2017. If sales are good, then expectations are the McVegan burger will spread throughout Europe, and eventually to the United States and the rest of the world.

McDonald's is not alone in providing its customers with vegan alternatives, and more companies are jumping on board the bandwagon. Ben & Jerry's has created an entire line of non-dairy, vegan "ice cream" (including such classic flavors as Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia), Domino's Australia launched vegan pizzas in its 600 Australian restaurants this month to "overwhelming demand," and startup vegan-centric fast-food restaurants such as Plant Power, Amy's Drive-Thru, Freshii, and others are popping up across the country.

Clearly, as demonstrated by its recent announcement that by 2025, 100 percent of the company's guest packaging will come from renewable, recycled, or certified sources, McDonald's is trying to have a positive impact on the world, while keeping up with the fast-changing buying preferences of its customers.

While I suspect that McDonald's will never stop selling beef or other meat products, the introduction of a vegan burger option is a big step for the company, and one that its competitors will surely rush to emulate.

And, who knows -- perhaps McDonald's will someday put clean meat (grown in a lab, and not requiring the death of animals) on its menu.