Return of Vegetarian Fast Food

I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian for roughly 5 years and a pescitarian for another 5 years.

That was nearly 10 years ago.

My reasons for becoming a vegetarian were vaguely ethical. PETA did a great job of marketing to my demographic around the turn of the century. The punk/DIY-esque social circles I interacted with on the early internet (and occasionally IRL) were generally pro-vegetarian/vegan and there were a large amount of resources available for new vegetarians.

At the same time, the early-to-mid-00s saw a huge jump in vegan options available locally. Grocery stores started carrying decent meat alternatives (like Yves). And surprisingly, mainstream fast-food chains began carrying (at least one) vegetarian option. McDonalds, Burger King and A&W all had veggie patties. KFC had a faux-chicken burger. Subway had their “veggie max” patty (much better than it’s gross sounding name).  Panago introduced their meat-free pepperoni during this time. It was a good time to be a fat vegetarian. With the exception of Panago, all of those options fell off the menu sometime in the past 10 years.

My reasons for starting to eat meat again were vaguely social and selfish. If I’m being honest with myself, the ethical and environment problems of eating meat are still something that troubles me occasionally. I’ve simply chosen not to care about them for the time being.

What I’m about to say is a bit of an uncharacteristically lofty statement for me to make but… I honestly think the world would be a better place if we ate less meat. I don’t think this can happen until we have nearly indistinguishable faux-meat, if not perfectly synthetic vat-grown meat. And I believe fast-food will be the major vector of change.

To that end, I’ve been watching the rise of more “realistic” faux-meat technologies with much curious anticipation. I was pretty stunned when I heard that A&W has started to serve (the Bill Gates + Twitter + Kliener Perkins funded) Beyond Meat “Beyond Burger.” I first heard about this company 2 or 3 years ago, they looked really promising, I just assumed they were still in R&D mode. Needless to say I’m looking forward to tasting this burger ASAP.

Coincidentally, I noticed that Subways has started to prominently stock their veggie max patty once again. I wonder if we might see a resurgence in vegetarian fast food.