Khushbu Shah for Eater
Photo: Taco Bell
Taco Bell — the quasi-Mexican chain known for its addictive but sometimes outlandish creations — today released a certified vegetarian menu. According to a press release, the chain’s menu now features items certified by the American Vegetarian Association (AVA), which is “the industry recognized standard in vegetarian labeling.” Taco Bell says it is the first quick service restaurant to do this.
Today, the chain is adding a vegetarian category to its website and mobile ordering app that features 13 AVA-certified items (though the category does not appear to be live yet). This includes dishes like the 7-Layer Burrito and the Cantina Power Veggie Bowl. The release notes that customers can also “hack the menu” and create vegetarian- and vegan-friendly dishes with any of its 35 AVA-certified ingredients, 26 of which are also vegan. The chain also allows customers to swap out meat in favor of beans to “create one of millions of different possible veggie-friendly dishes.” Eater has reached out to Taco Bell for a full list of the menu items.
Taco Bell’s CEO Brian Niccol notes that “vegetarians are not an afterthought” to the. Indeed, the company sells more than 350 million vegetarian menu items each year. In a brilliant marketing move, Taco Bell decided to be more transparent about what vegetarians and “flexitarians” can order.
To get certified, according to the AVA website, companies must submit all the ingredients used in a menu item. If a dish contains eggs or dairy products it can be certified as vegetarian, and if it contains “no animal by-products” it can be certified as vegan. This is a decision that should please PETA, which offers tips on its website on how to “veganize” Taco Bell items.
The move is a big step for the fast food industry: The reality is that most chains only offer a handful of vegetarian options, much to the dismay of people who do not eat meat. People have been petitioning the chain to add a veggie burger to its menu for years, and asking McDonald’s to take the natural beef flavoring out of its fries. The chain’s french fries — a dish most people assume to be vegetarian- and vegan-friendly — have been the center of controversy numerous times. The chain was sued in 2001 by people who refrain from eating meat, claiming that McDonald’s misled them to think that the fries were vegetarian.