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The BK Veggie?


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I believe that there's a combination of buyer responsibility and advertiser/restaurateur responsibility at stake. I knew, from reading the articles Steve posted, that my BK Veggie would be cooked on a meat grill. I didn't really care, because as I've posted elsewhere I'm slowly reentering the world of omnivorism. But the vegetarian in me is bothered by a "Veggie" item being cooked in meat grease.

Now, there are other fast food places that do the same thing. Johnny Rockets, for example, cooks the Boca burgers they sell on the same grill as their meat burgers. Their kitchens are open, so you can see this from anywhere, although in my experience there's usually a small area of the grill that they only use for the veggie burgers. For a purist vegetarian, that's not good enough, and well, they have a right to not eat there. But at least at JRs you can see for yourself how they prepare things.

In my experience, no consumer can rely on a fast food restaurant staff to know much of anything about special diets, ingredients, or cooking methods. However, less jaded vegetarians (especially newer vegetarians) are less likely to be aware of this. And, well, I don't think the buyer should have to be so aware. I think that "natural flavors" should include something along the lines of "(including meat/fowl flavorings)" on the label. I do think you should be able to tell that an item is not vegetarian from reading the publicised nutrition information, just as you should be able to tell if an item includes peanuts or soy for those with food allergies.

I knew for years that McDonald's fries were flavored with beef, so I didn't eat them. But you couldn't get that info from a McDonald's store. You had to call corporate headquarters to get a definition of "natural flavors" as listed on the nutrition information leaflets they make available.

Tommy, you seem to have an emotional attachment to the notion that vegetarians should not assume an item touted as "veggie" is vegetarian, at least in the sense of not containing derivatives of meat, fowl and fish. What have you got invested in this argument, if you are not a vegetarian or a restaurateur yourself?

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Tommy, you seem to have an emotional attachment to the notion that vegetarians should not assume an item touted as "veggie" is vegetarian, at least in the sense of not containing derivatives of meat, fowl and fish. What have you got invested in this argument, if you are not a vegetarian or a restaurateur yourself?

i own cattle.  and a corn farm.  and a mansion and a yatch.

seriously, my dad taught me one important lesson:  don't put anything in your mouth that might make you uncomfortable.  he told me this when i tried swalling a cue ball.  i'm not sure if that translates here, but, it made me *very* uncomfortable the next day.

and with all due respect malawry, i don't see why one would assume i have anything "vested" in this, um, discussion either way.  if you can think of a scenario that might suggest that i do, i'd love to hear it.  i can't think of one possibility, with that exception of the fact i own cattle, corn, a mansion and a yatch, and that my real name is elmer fudd.

piece out yo.

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My belief is a little less stringent than tommy's, but I'll add that in my opinion this whole discussion has very little to do with what "veggie" actually means.  It has more to do with what we DO about any potentially disagreement about what veggie means.

On the issue of complete food labelling (and by that I mean easily available and ACCURATE nutritional information sheets), I've already agreed with that in this topic, and so has tommy, I think.  Make them make it accurate--and penalize the bastards badly if they don't.

Again... the real issue here is about what should or shouldn't be "done" to control how B.K. advertises the product.  This is where the greatest remaining disagreement seems to lie.

In part it has to do with personal responsibility--an issue you've addressed well and correctly, Malawry.

Also, in part, it has to do with societal responsibility.  We've argued endlessly around whether or not Burger King was trying to mislead people.  My own take on this is that as distasteful as it would be if they had, it's ultimately a lesser point.  The greater point is where we draw a line in expecting that all shades of meaning and all interpretations of any possible action to have to be explictly spelled out and/or legislated for us.  

Okay... so veggie is being misused by B.K... we've already all mostly agreed that a lawsuit would be a waste of time... so what's being proposed?  Legislation to ensure that every use of "Veggie" be verified by a massive government buerocracy?  Legally mandated use of asteriked comments to spell out exactly what "veggie" means in this circumstance?  A schedule of fines and a police force to enforce proper use?

Or how about paraphrasing to the extent of having an entire new-speak type of language where we've got a million shades of gray for every concept? (so that alternate names are enforced like: Mostly Meat By-Product Free Patty; Vege-Like Burger; Vegetable Patty Prepared in Meat Compromised Conditions; Veggies Charred in Meat Juice; etc. etc.)  

Yes, I know I'm exaggerating more than a bit. :)

But multiply this by all of the other possible words and concepts that can be (and are) used creatively in adverstising, but aren't outright fraudulent.  Do we have to define exactly what "large" is and what a "super size" is?  Do panty hose have to be inspected for a certain smoothness to be called "sheer"?  Do we fine car companies for calling their car "fast" if it doesn't match a legally mandated minimum?

Again, I exaggerate.  Certainly some forms of legislation in this area are vitally needed.  For example, I find it very peculiar how serving sizes on nutritional information charts are adjusted differently for similar products.  Exactly how much lobbying money is being pumped into the government to keep those values so relative?  Why is Gatorade's serving size 8 ounces and Pepsi's 12 ounces, for example?  Who allows Pepperidge Farm to say that a single cookie is a serving in one package, but four similarly sized cookies a serving in another?

My ultimate point in all this is that as important as the purity of their vegetarian experience might be to a dedicated Vegan, that it's more than just a bit frivolous to GO AFTER someone like Burger King for an action like this.  Demand full disclosure in nutritional information, sure.  Write about how disengenuous they are to any magazine that will listen, sure.  Stop giving them your business, definitely.

But beyond that?  Uh uh.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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they should have called it the "water chestnut, mushroom and other veggie(table) burger".  that way they wouldn't risk confusing the apparently easily baffled vegans and vegetarians.

puleeze.

:D

uh uh tommy.  It has more than water chestnut, mushroom and other veggie(tables) in it.  Your name has to emphasize that meat by-products might somehow have slipped in there.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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I wouldn't suggest people "go after" Burger King. That being said, it sure would be nice if there was somebody besides Subway who really was making a vegetarian sandwich. Even Subway gives you the risk of "cross-contamination," but I used to ask employees to change their gloves and wipe the long cutting board before preparing my sandwich and they always cheerfully complied with my request. (Probably because I didn't snarl it or command it, I smiled and asked sweetly.)

Words like lite, fat-free, and reduced-calorie are legislated. I'd like to see vegetarian, vegan, and meatless held to similarly strict definitions. I wouldn't want to see "veggie" or "vegetable" held to a similar definition, because I don't see why a "veggie salad" would necessarily be expected to be free of bacon bits or what have you. As an aware consumer, I know that "healthy" is not legislated, and so I don't assume it's "reduced-calorie" just 'cause it's labeled "healthy." Vegetarians and vegans, who are accustomed to researching the contents of potential food items, would easily be able to discern the difference between defined and undefined words as they appear on labels.

As far as how BK should market their product in a dictionaryless world...I dunno if there's a simple answer to that. I'm no marketing goddess. "Flame broiled on the grill...just like our Whopper" gets close to the truth without losing that necessary marketing muscle. I certainly wouldn't argue that BK shouldn't sell this product at all if they can't make it vegetarian. Think of all the people who are on low-cholesterol diets, or who are trying to get more fiber, or what have you...lots of people eat meat analogues that are not vegetarian or vegan. Maybe the best way would be to give the patty itself a name and call it that, a la Gardenburger. That way they aren't stating anything about its preparation. But maybe they call their patty a "veggie"? I don't know.

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Wouldn't someone who is vegan not want to go to a BK or McD even if the veggie burger was completely vegan? I'm thinking this because even the though that sandwich is vegan by buying anything in those stores you are supporting a corporation whose main function is selling meat.

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Not all vegans are as politicised as that about multinational corporations or about the meat industry or whatever. I know plenty of vegans who would eat a vegan sandwich offered by a fast food chain specifically so the chain would continue to carry it. (Indeed, this is the main reason I will eat a BK Veggie again.) Also, when you're on the road, if you're a vegan your options are severely limited. Vegetarians can eat at way more fast food chains than vegans, and sometimes fast food is all that's easy to find from the road. Even the more politicised vegans would probably get a vegan sammich every now and then.

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Update. The Scranton Times Tribune has an article online (click here) in which someone is surprised the BK Veggie is cooked on the grill with the other stuff.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Update. The Scranton Times Tribune has an article online (click here) in which someone is surprised the BK Veggie is cooked on the grill with the other stuff.

the woman claims that she "has the right to know".  i didn't think that someone had taken away her rights.  did i miss something?  :D

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the woman claims that she "has the right to know".  i didn't think that someone had taken away her rights.

It might have been taken at birth. How could she not know? ???

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Even the more politicised vegans would probably get a vegan sammich every now and then.

In other words, BK is doing people a service, even if they aren't bankrupting themselves by buying duplicate grilling equipment to assure the perfect isolation, yet flame-broiled taste of the BKV.

Isn't capitalism great?

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Sunday's Opinion section of my local Newspaper of Record included an article about the hapless BK Veggie.

In this attempt to 1., be a good eGullet citizen, and, 2., participate in this what I think computerheads call "imbedding a hot link," I also ask forgiveness in advance for posting failure and/or incorrect terminology.

So OK.  Here's hoping.

Priscilla

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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Thank you, Wilfrid.  I thought it was intelligent too, and hope it adds something to the growing body of thought on the subject.  Growing here on eGullet, I mean.

It's made fascinating reading.  So many facets (and according to the article, so many ingredients!) to examine, and dovetailing with  Fast Food Nation, a connection already cited here by others.

I learned a while ago from vegetarian teeny neighbors that the In-n-Out Burger Secret Menu has an item for them:  Grilled cheese, so-called, cheese and all the toppings except meat.  I've been thinking since that this goes on at other fast food joints, too, but maybe not.  In-n-Out is a particularly nice company.  

Priscilla

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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Let's think of this from a purely economic standpoint for a moment.   Could BK afford to maintain seperate cooking areas for Veggie Burgers?  Probably not.

See below: it is possible, although as you say, probably not practical. Depends on what market you're targeting.

Nevertheless, they could probably do a bit more to seperate out the grease being used.  Without a seperate cooking area it would never be 100% though...

Let's be honest... if enough fuss is made of this it's far more likely that they would drop the BK Veggie entirely, as opposed to taking more extreme (and costly) measures to keep it pure.

I can respect veganism as a choice... but it's a bit much to expect other people to look out for you.  The whole idea of a McDonalds french fry or a Burger King burger or ANY fast food more complex than a side salad being truly animal by-product free is so inherently ludicrous that I'm not sure why anyone would ever make ANY assumptions about it.  If Burger King actively advertised it as "vegetarian" "animal by-product free" or "vegan" than slap them hard.  If not, and people simply ASSUMED, well...

To their credit, Sassy's Sliders (which was originally on 10th street and 1st avenue in Manhattan, then moved up to 86th street on the east side and now I don't know if they still exist) did specify that their veggie "slider" was cooked on a separate griddle. I often had that burger, and found it to be as good as the best veggie burgers I'd ever had. (Unfortunately, they served it on a white-bread bun, which detracted from it, however.)

It is absolutely true that with regard to your own dietary choices you have to be vigilant without expecting anyone else to look out for you. I'm looking forward to getting a soymilk machine in the next two weeks, because as a by-product of the milk, the machine also gives you a portion of okara, which is the fiber of the bean after the milk is pressed out. Years ago I used to buy an okara burger (made with flaxseed, chard, carrots, and such), and I'm looking forward to experimenting with making my own burger. I'll report.

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Okara (also called unohana or kirazu) makes an interesting soup with dashi as a base, scallions, daikon, shoyu, and a bit of sake.

It's best to steam or bake the okara for 45 minutes and let it cool before trying to use it, to make the proteins more digestible and remove undesirable enzymes.

It's also good to fry it instead until thoroughly it's cooked (about 20 minutes) and then add it to a vegetable dish, like maitake mushrooms and leeks.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Okay, I tried the BK Veggie the other day and I liked it. It helped that it was fresh off the assembly line. Only thing I hated was the mayo; I'll definitely tell them to hold it next time.

But even in spite of the white-bread bun and iceberg lettuce and pink tomato, I finished it and was thinking about it half an hour later. It may not be the healthiest burger, but it sure beats meat - in my opinion.

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1) Going to BK/McDs and complaining about the grease taint is like going to a whorehouse and complaining you weren't loved.  

Beachfan, have you considered doing standup?

4) Vegetarians ALWAYS have to exercise Caveat Emptor.  

Absolutely true: I went to a neighborhood pizza joint (Five Roses, which used to be called Rosemarie's before she incorporated her daughters) and was excited to see "Vegetarian Lasagne" on the board. I forgot that at this place, "vegetarian" means "without meat" and has nothing to do with cheese. After I had placed my order, I turned back and said,

"Oh, does the lasagne have cheese on it?"

"Yes, it does."

'Oh, I can't eat that."

"You can take the cheese off." I guess she forgot that the ricotta filling is cheese.

"No, I can't have that." I changed my order to the "straciatella siciliana", kind of a french bread pizza without cheese which I love.

Eating anything these days has become a minefield; I'm forever reading ingredients labels. Is it worth it? To me, it is.

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