Every November — World Vegan Month — compassionate, health-conscious and environmentally friendly individuals revel in the growing interest in vegan living. And this month, there’s even more reason to celebrate. Both The Economist and Forbes predicted that 2019 would be the Year of the Vegan, and their proclamations have pretty much been on the mark. Vegans have been sprouting up all over, as more and more people become aware of the ethical and ecological ramifications of animal agriculture, as well as the health hazards of eating animal-based foods.
According to Veganuary, a charity that inspires people to go vegan for January and throughout the year, a quarter-million people in 190 countries pledged to go vegan in January 2019.
If you weren’t one of them — or you’re not already vegan — why not pledge to go vegan for World Vegan Month? You’ll improve your health, help stop animal suffering and combat climate change, all while expanding your culinary horizons. Researchers from Oxford Martin School believe that if everyone went vegan, it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds, avoid 1.5 trillion dollars’ worth of climate-related damage, and save up to 8 million human lives (not to mention billions of animals) by 2050.
And you won’t be on your own if you give meat, eggs and dairy foods the boot. In 2017, 6% of Americans identified as vegan — an increase of 600% in just three years — and the number is likely even higher now. The new generation of “beefy” veggie burgers has been flying off supermarket shelves and restaurant griddles like the proverbial hot cakes. Americans spent $670 million on vegan meats from 2017 to 2018, and the food industry organization Dining Alliance found that sales of vegan meats in restaurants have increased by 268% over the past year. Sales will continue to skyrocket, according to UBS, a financial service company, which forecasts that the vegan meat market will grow by 28% a year and reach $85 billion by 2030.
A growing number of young people — including those who may be paying for their own meals by 2030 — have reason to rejoice this World Vegan Month. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the nation, began serving vegan meals in all of its schools in the 2018–19 school year. Other California schools, as well as schools in New York, Florida and Maine, have recently started offering vegan options, too.
Eating animal-based foods is old-school. Even meat companies — including Hormel and Smithfield Foods, the largest pig-killing company in the world — have launched lines of vegan meats. There’s a vegan fast-food war going on, too, with well-known companies trying to win customers over by introducing meat-free meals. And it’s working. KFC sold out of Beyond Meat vegan chicken, which it recently tested at a KFC near Atlanta, in just five hours.
Subway offered a Beyond Meatball Sub (made vegan by forgoing the cheese) at select locations in October, Mexican food chain Del Taco recently joined Chipotle in offering vegan meat options, and UNO Italian restaurants just added a vegan menu, complete with the Beyond Burger and Daiya vegan cheese on its pizza.
And that’s not all. Las Vegas-based vegan butcher NoButcher opened its first brick-and-mortar store on Oct. 19. It offers vegan turkey, bacon and pepperoni, along with vegan pulled pork and Mediterranean grilled vegetable sandwiches.
America is clearly hungry for change. Heck, thinking about all these vegan foods has left me famished. I plan to plant myself at a vegan-friendly restaurant (or two) this month. How about you?