What is it about a new “vegan butcher” that has meat industry supporters in a royal tizzy? Perhaps it’s the overwhelming popularity of this meat-free option?
Brother and sister team Kale and Aubry Walch just opened the Herbivorous Butcher, a vegan butcher shop in Minneapolis, Minn. Offering small batch “meat-free meats” and “cheese-free cheeses” made from locally sourced ingredients, the Herbivorous Butcher calls itself the first vegan butcher shop in America.
It’s already a must-visit destination for non-meat eaters in the Twin Cities area. That’s because locals know the quality of the product. The Walchs have been selling faux meats and cheeses there since 2014. They began small, at a farmer’s market stand, progressing to pop-ups, state fairs and festivals as their popularity grew.
A Kickstarter campaign offered Kale and Aubry the chance to take their dream to the next level. In 2016, they’ve done that in a big way. Opening day was Jan. 23 and customers came flowing in. Here’s just one shot of what the line looked like that day:
“We’re like a savory bakery, that’s what we call ourselves,” Aubry told The Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Everything is a dough, and then it gets either steamed, or baked, or braised, depending upon the product.”
The Walchs designed the store to look like a butcher shop from days gone by, but a little more shiny and hip. There’s even a huge meat cleaver outside the front door with the store’s name emblazoned on it. While that might be a tad disconcerting at first glance, the deli cases quickly relieve the concern. There’s no meat as far as the eye can see. Instead, all sorts of faux meats and cheeses fill the deli cases, carefully crafted from recipes perfected after years of work.
“Sixty to 70 percent of our customers are omnivores, or vegan before six,” Kale told The Minneapolis Star Tribune. “The rest are vegans or vegetarians.”
While the crowds prove Minneapolis loves having a vegan butcher, at least one meat industry supporter is crying foul. She doesn’t like the “vegan butcher” label and she doesn’t like the product.
Cheryl Day is the editor of National Hog Farmer magazine. In a Jan. 25 blog article, she argues the concept of a vegan “butcher” is “just plain unethical and wrong on all levels.” Yes, you read that correctly. The vegans are the unethical ones.
Day believes the moniker “vegan butcher” is a calculated sleight of hand.
“[S]omeone needs to explain to me what exactly is the fascination of creating faux meat and cheese that looks precisely the same thing as the real deal — hoping to trick meat lovers into eating tofu bacon? Really?” she writes. Oh snap, she figured it out. The evil plan is unmasked. The goal is to fool bacon and burger eaters into becoming unknowing vegetarians.
All this whining sounds oddly familiar. Remember when Chik-fil-A pursued Vermont t-shirt maker Bo Muller-Moore’s Eat More Kale company? Raising objections to Eat More Kale‘s trademark application, Chik-fil-A inexplicably complained that customers might confuse “eat more kale” with the Chik-fil-A slogan “eat mor chik’n.” I’d bet good money that never happens, guys. Ultimately, Eat More Kale prevailed — and Chik-fil-A began offering a vegan kale salad.
Here’s another one. Unilever, maker of Hellmann’s mayonnaise, complained via a lawsuit that Hampton Creek’s vegan condiment “Just Mayo” was inappropriately calling itself “mayo.” Mayo, said Unilever, implies it’s mayonnaise. To be mayonnaise, legally it must include eggs. The name “Just Mayo” therefore was “blatantly misleading.” The world laughed, and Unilever dropped its lawsuit. Oh, and it recently announced it’s coming out with its own vegan mayonnaise substitute.
The National Hog Farmer blog also takes issue with the Herbivorous Butcher’s desire to have a “negative impact to animals.” Silly vegans, animals are for eating because God provided them for that purpose, Day insists. Oh, and those factory farmers — they take really good care of the livestock and “treat them with the utmost respect by passionately caring for them every day.” Sure they do. We’ve seen all that undercover footage that proves it, right?
What all this hubbub means is that vegan products are winning. The crowds swarming the doors at the Herbivorous Butcher prove it. Vegan as a choice is gaining ground and is here to stay.
Whether it’s a “vegan butcher” or mayo that’s not mayonnaise, give people a little bit of credit for knowing what they’re buying. Hey meat/dairy/egg industries — we’re buying these products on purpose. We want to avoid harming animals and the planet. There’s a ready-made customer base for every new vegan commodity inventors can come up with.
You meat, dairy and egg producers are right to be worried, you know. The day is coming when a majority of consumers will turn against you. We can’t wait.
By: Susan Bird
Photo credit (all photos): Herbivorous Butcher Facebook page