Photo credit: Change.org
Vegetarians are not “lovin’ it” at McDonald’s — and are hungering for some meatless protein on the menu.
A petition launched on Change.org in the last week asks the fast-food giant to give vegetarians a “meatless protein-centric option” and has already received over 80,000 signatures (and counting).
"Consumer demand for plant-based foods continues to rise," the petition states. "You have veggie wraps in Canada and Europe. … Why not offer ‘something for everyone’ here in America, too?"
While some claim to have ordered a veggie burger from McDonald’s franchises in New York and L.A., that is not an option listed on its menu online. McDonald’s spokesperson Lisa McComb confirmed that a veggie burger was offered “some time ago,” but it didn’t take off as a “choice for customers.” But that was then.
"The market has changed," petition creator Kathy Freston told us on the phone. "People are more interested in more plant-based options [that are] zero cholesterol, zero trans fat, and cruelty free."
Freston, a health activist and author who has appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show” and other television programs to promote veganism, notes on her petition website that meat substitutes bring in $533 million annually: Veganism has gone from the hippie fringe to capitalist mainstream.
While the fast-food world is not a vegan wasteland, for those who don’t eat meat and dairy, a cornucopia it’s not. Chipotle Mexican Grill tested a tofu option called Sofritas in its San Francisco stores last year, and when that began a feeding frenzy, expanded to locations in Oregon and Washington state, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
"Sofritas is still going really strong," company spokesperson Danielle Winslow wrote in an email. Where available, the tofu dish accounts for "4 to 5 percent of sales," she added.
In addition, Subway has the Veggie Delite sandwich — along with a Veggie Patty.
Burger King offers a MorningStar Veggie Burger that it bills on its website as “not just for vegetarians.”
McDonald’s might do well to pay attention to the meat-free pleas. “We’ve lost some of our customer relevance,” CEO Don Thompson said during a recent call with analysts to discuss the company’s fourth-quarter results — which were disappointing despite the addition of healthier menu items like egg-white sandwiches and chicken wraps.
"We always welcome feedback and dialogue with consumers and we want to reflect their tastes and preferences on our menu," McDonald’s spokesperson McComb wrote via email. "That’s why we continue to monitor customer dining trends to inform our future offerings."
The statement continues, “At this time, we have many menu items that can be customized without meat like our Premium McWraps and Salads, as well as many breakfast options that are available to order without meat and still provide a source of protein.”
Translation: You can order the Chicken McWrap — and hold the chicken. Freston thinks McDonald’s can do better. “This is where lots of Americans eat,” she said. “Americans love our burgers. It’s not necessarily the beef or chicken, it’s more the experience of a burger. We want our traditions, but we want them upgraded a little bit.”
Freston is getting a boost from some famous meat-free supporters. “Help encourage @McDonald’s to add a veggie burger to the menu,” Alicia Silverstone tweeted.
"A petition for a veggie burger at McD’s. Sign please," posted food writer Mark Bittman.
"I love veggie burgers and I even eat meat!" added petition signer Monica Booker on Change.org.
"Haven’t been to McDonalds in yrs. maybe changing the menu to a healthy venue will just be the start of something good!" added Ave Turnbull.
Vegetarians have spoken: They want a burger, and they want it fast.