Vegetarian Dining: Bringing Cruelty-Free Cuisine into Reach
From mega metropolises to conservative rural America, it's no secret that vegetarianism has plunged into the mainstream, with an ever-growing number of consumers opting for healthy and cruelty-free fare.
While the majority of Mercy For Animals' campaigns aim to expose farmed animal cruelty and encourage compassionate consumers to move toward a vegan diet, MFA's Vegetarian Dining Campaign works to make going and staying vegetarian easy, convenient, and delicious. By working with restaurant owners to broaden their meatless offerings, and creating online and print resources that map out listings of vegetarian-friendly establishments by region, MFA is transforming the way Americans eat.
A Growing Demand: Vegetarians are Sprouting Up Everywhere
Whether because of health motivations, religious beliefs, or concerns for animal welfare, Americans are steadily adjusting their eating habits to reduce or eliminate meat and other animal products from their diets. The market for vegetarian food products grew from $646 million in 1998 to $1.6 billion in 2003 and was projected to reach $2.5 billion in 2008. MFA's Vegetarian Dining Campaign works to assist restaurants in tapping into this expanding market, while pairing up vegetarian diners with establishments catering to them.
Such campaigns not only prevent farmed animal cruelty, but also provide valuable resources for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.
While the number of vegetarians is growing every year (an estimated 20 million in 2006 and 7.5 million vegans in 2011), the number of non-vegetarians who often order vegetarian meals at restaurants is also growing dramatically. Consider these facts:
57% of all restaurant-goers "sometimes," "often," or "always" order a vegetarian item when dining out (Zogby International).
The health and eco-conscious population contributed to the growth of a $1.2 billion market for vegan goods (primarily dairy, egg, cheese and meat substitutes), one that jumped 63.5% between 2000 and 2005 (New York Times, Jan. 11, 2007).
35% of adults aged 45 to 64 regularly consume vegetarian foods and milk alternatives, such as soy or rice milk (Mintel Consumer Intelligence Survey). Total retail sales of non-dairy milks reached $1.33 billion in 2011 (Market Research, Packaged Facts.)
Influenced by an increasing awareness of what constitutes healthy eating habits, an abundance of young people are also eliminating animal products from their diets. Young people have tremendous buying power and will carry these consumer habits into adulthood. Consider these facts:
1 out of every 4 college students wants vegan meals offered on campus (ARAMARK survey, 2004).
Approximately one million school-aged children do not eat red meat, poultry, or fish (Vegetarian Resource Group Survey, 2000).
A growing number of Americans expect restaurants to offer healthy and humane menu items, and MFA's Vegetarian Dining Campaign is helping restaurants to meet those expectations.
Veg Web: Online Dining Resources
MFA also offers VegGuide.org – a must-cruise powerhouse of a resource filled with thousands of listings and reviews of veg-friendly restaurants from around the world. The site is a joint project between MFA and Compassionate Action for Animals.
The Veg Advantage: Growing Vegan Menu Offerings
MFA's Vegetarian Dining Campaign not only promotes restaurants that already cater to vegans, but works with food providers to expand their meatless offerings. By engaging college dining services, local restaurants, and food manufactures, MFA has been successful in increasing the number of establishments catering to the vegetarian community.
The Vegetarian Dining Campaign also extends into the food manufacturing industries – working with companies to "veganize" their products.
In early 2009, Mercy For Animals teamed up with Compassion Over Killing and the Animal Protection and Rescue League to urge mock meat powerhouse, BOCA Foods, to remove eggs from its product line. Within weeks of launching the campaign, which included the site BocaEggFacts.com, BOCA issued a statement declaring, "BOCA brand will be eliminating eggs in all of its products by the end of this year. We anticipate all BOCA products will be egg free in 2010."
This impressive victory not only made adopting a vegan diet more accessible to consumers nationwide, but most importantly, spared thousands of egg-laying hens from a miserable life crammed inside battery cages.
Get Active: How You Can Help
There are many ways to get involved in your community to help make vegan dining more accessible to all:
Encourage local restaurants to offer more vegan options. Help broaden the selection of vegan options in your community by approaching local restaurants and encouraging them to expand their selections of vegan meals. With a rapidly growing base of consumers seeking vegan meals – for health, environmental, ethical, spiritual or allergenic, reasons - restaurants that feature vegan items are tapping into a new customer base, and profits. It's easy – politely ask to speak with the restaurant manager. Then, in a friendly manner, encourage him or her to add more vegan options to the restaurant's menu, clearly labeling them as such. Explain how doing so opens them up to many new, and growing, markets. You can also request to set up a formal meeting with the owners, chefs, or managers of a restaurant to discuss in greater detail how they can best incorporate or expand their vegan options. Click here to download MFA's Vegetarian Resource Guide for Restaurants, a comprehensive, all-in-one "how-to" guide for food providers.
Are you a Restaurant Owner or Manager? A growing number of Americans expect restaurants to offer healthy menu items. By adding vegan items to your menu, your establishment will be reaching out not only to vegetarians and vegans, but a variety of growing markets: those with special cholesterol or health needs, the lactose intolerant, certain religious groups, including the kosher community, athletes and the environmentally conscious.
Our Vegetarian Resource Guide for Restaurants is a comprehensive guide containing all of the information you'll need to get started, implement menu changes, and promote new vegetarian items to your customers. Complete with articles, basic guidelines, sample menus, recipes, and resources on distributors, it's the perfect way to get started! Click here to download the Vegetarian Resource Guide for Restaurants. If you would like additional assistance, click here to email MFA.
Veganize your college cafeteria.Click here to download a complete, easy-to-use guide.
Urge Dunkin' Donuts to ditch eggs & dairy. Dunkin' Donuts is the world's largest coffee and baked goods chain, serving more than 3 million customers daily. Dunkin' Donuts offers more than 52 varieties of donuts – each one containing both egg and dairy products from animals forced to endure the cruelties of factory farming. Join the effort to persuade Dunkin' Donuts to drop eggs and dairy from its donuts, and to offer vegan options, by going to DunkinCruelty.com.
Become an MFA intern. Put your compassion into action with an MFA internship. Internship opportunities are available year-round at our offices in Chicago, New York City, and Columbus, Ohio. Click here for additional information and an internship application.
Donate now! Make a tax-deductible contribution to support Mercy For Animals' life-saving work on behalf of the most abused and neglected creatures on earth: farmed animals. Click here for information on joining MFA's monthly giving club, and click here for information on joining The Hope Society.