It’s almost Thanksgiving and everyone’s talking turkey again. We thought we’d chime in and talk about turkeys, too. After all, it is their day, right?
Have you read or seen the recent news about Butterball announcing a shortage of their big turkeys this year? People are wondering why, but Butterball isn’t telling them. Here’s a possible reason: the turkeys either got very sick or they died. A little background as to why:
”Two decades ago the goal of every grower was to ensure that the flock grew as rapidly as possible. However, the industry has developed a broiler that, if grown as rapidly as possible, will achieve a body mass that cannot be supported by the bird’s heart, respiratory system or skeleton. The situation has forced growers to make a choice. Is it more profitable to grow the biggest bird possible and have increased mortality due to heart attacks, ascites, and leg problems…?A large portion of growers’ pay is based on the pound of saleable meat produced, so simple calculations suggest that it is better to get the weight and ignore the mortality.” – a prominent poultry researcher as quoted by the Humane Society of the United States
Knowledge is power. Thus, an informed consumer is a powerful one. Read more information on the turkey industry from Farm Sanctuary.
This guest blog is part of our “Perspectives on the Food Business”series. This comes from Matthew Krauss, Assistant General Manager and Operations Director for Sportservice at CenturyLink Field (home of the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders FC). Krauss was formerly Operations Manager for Sportservice at U.S. Cellular Field (Chicago White Sox), the first MLB stadium to heed Veggie Happy’s request for veggie dogs in concession stands. This season, Veggie Happy helped to facilitate vegan frankfurters and burgers at CenturyLink Field from Seattle’s own Field Roast Grain Meat Company. (See CenturyLink Field’s full veg menu listing in our Venue Guide.)
The sports hospitality landscape has changed drastically in the last 20 years. Consumer demands of dietary needs and healthy menu items have grown with everything else in the sports hospitality industry. With bigger business and higher price tickets comes a heightened expectation by the fans. Our goal is to always meet and hopefully exceed their expectations. Original menu creation and diverse food options give the venue character and excitement. It’s not just hot dogs, peanuts, chocolate malt cups, and stale beer in wax cups (see Tiger’s menu from the early 70’s below). I witnessed the movement the first 10 years as a paying consumer (suites, new stadiums, in-seat service). The last 10 years I have been fortunate enough to actually get paid to influence the movement and manage the growth within the industry.
Tigers Menu from 1970s
As a leader in the industry my philosophy has been to bring what’s best of the city to the venues. The soul of a city is through its food and that food can create character and warmth that the steel and concrete do not. I have also learned diversifying menu options is a must in this competitive industry to match the diversified tastes and wants of our fans.
Vegetarian and Gluten Free options have been a big push over the last 5 years. The key to these menu items are to provide and serve them in a quality way. Gummy bears (gluten free) and nachos (vegetarian) were the norm not too long ago in regards to special dietary needs menus in stadiums. With help from fans and vendors availability and quality of these options have grown exponentially.
As an operator there are quite a few challenges when planning dietary menus in concessions at stadiums. Most people don’t realize the preparation, logistics, and the planning that goes into servicing tens of thousands of people in a time span of a couple hours. Maximizing service and keeping food quality consistent are the focus once doors open up. This can only be done if menus are planned out properly and organized in locations that can properly serve these items.
This past summer while taking over operations of CenturyLink Field in Seattle fans were vocal about our decision to remove “veggie burgers” from the club level. The reasoning behind the decision wasn’t because of financial numbers, but because of standards to keep these items to the quality the fans deserve. Not only is it beneficial for an operator to keep special items (like vegan and gluten free) in specific areas for pure logistic reasons but it also insures quality and consistency of these items as they need to be prepared properly. I ended up changing the veggie burger to a vegan burger and to assure proper preparation this item needed to be prepared and cooked at separate grills to prevent cross-contamination.
A good operator will not only find a diverse creative menu and incorporate vegetarian options around the venue but will also look for opportunity to create a couple specific menu concepts spots in strategic locations that strictly focus on those specialty items (whether it be dietary, healthy, or any concept options). It is also vital for the fan base to know where all options and items are in a venue. MLB “At The Ballpark” app, Seattle Seahawks app, veggiehappy.com, and many other sources have been a great help to improve guest experiences at venues.
We aren’t saving lives (with healthier food options I like to think we are helping). Our job is to make our fans (guests) have memorable moments on and off the field of entertainment.
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We’re proud to have helped open the door to vegan frankfurters and specialty vegan burgers at the Seattle Seahawks’ CenturyLink Field this season.They will be sold from a veggie cart on the east side of the main concourse (exact location still TBD as of this posting, check their listing in our NFL Vegetarian Guide for any updates.) San Francisco 49ers‘ Candlestick Park also confirmed vegan franks and specialty burgers on their menu this year.
“Johanna was been a great resource for the sports hospitality industry and for myself in regards to menu consulting. She has promoted and measured stadium menus all around the country while connecting vendors with service providers. Her services are very valuable for not only to the guests who are looking up the menus but for the operators as well.” – Matthew Krauss, Assistant General Manager and Operations Director, Delaware North Sportservice at CenturyLink Field
When a venue does well with a new item, it creates understandable interest from concession management staff at other large sporting venues. CenturyLink Field joins its neighbor Safeco Field (home to MLB’s Seattle Mariners) in offering Field Roast franks and specialty burgers to their fans. Safeco Field saw a dramatic rise in category sales after switching to Field Roast products several years ago and other venues quickly took heed. With our help, San Francisco Giants‘ AT&T Park and Cleveland Indians‘ Progressive Field also added these items and noted better sales after making the switch. San Francisco 49ers’ Candlestick Park followed their lead by offering these items soon thereafter.
“Johanna has done a tremendous job of helping to implement vegetarian menu selections into sporting venues. She is very enthusiastic and will assist you doing research and product selection when necessary. She has encouraged, and assisted me in adding healthy menu items at my venue which we have continued to increase every season.” – Sandie Filipiak, Director of Concessions at Centerplate, AT&T Park
Interest in plant-based options goes well beyond the vegetarian or vegan population. Just this week Mintel, a reputable and award winning market research company, posted a study titled: “More than one-third of Americans consume meat alternatives, but only a fraction are actually vegetarians.” Veggie Happy always emphasizes the importance of choosing vegan foods that appeal to flexitarian eaters for this very reason. We only encourage foods and brands that are popular across a wide spectrum of consumers. (Translation? Sales!)
“This data suggests that participation in the alternative meat category stretches far beyond necessity, and creates an opportunity for future growth based on the products’ ability to meet general consumer food interests, such as health, price, variety and convenience,” says Beth Bloom, food and drink analyst at Mintel. “The bottom line is that vegetarians and vegans aren’t the only people eating “fake” meat, meat eaters are also exploring this new found protein superpower.”
Concessions at Safeco Field, AT&T Park and Candlestick Park are managed by Centerplate. CenturyLink Field’s new concession management company this year is Delaware North Sportservice, which runs the concessions at Progressive Field as well.
Fan/customer feedback is an important part of the recipe for change at any and all venues.Be sure to check our Venue Vegetarian Guide for all MLB and NFL listings and to contact your favorite and local venues to provide menu suggestions and/or to offer your thanks!
Two recently released food trend reports highlight the growing demand for plant-based options. The first of these reports was presented by a trendologist with a company called CCD Innovation at the Fancy Food Show in New York. The title of the presentation was “From Cafeteria to Market: How Campus Millennials Shape Culinary Trends of Tomorrow.” Here’s an excerpt from an article about this report in Supermarket News:
Many respondents are dining along the meatless spectrum and practicing vegetarian, vegan, raw and flexitarian diets, some for the first time.
“I have been introduced to a lot more vegetables and meatless dishes because my roommate is vegetarian and wants me to try her foods,” said one respondent.
Campus dining halls, with their innovative and contemporary menus, are also exposing students to a range of food.
This brings to mind the “vegetarian veto vote,” whereby one vegetarian or vegan in a group with six to eight non-vegetarians will influence that group to go to an establishment where vegetarians can be accommodated. With a growing number or consumers preferring vegetarian options, restaurants and other foodservice providers will do well to heed their demand.
The second is the “2013 Burger Consumer Trend Report” from Technomic, the leading fact-based consulting and research firm serving the food industry. Here are some interesting mentions in this report:
95% of consumers said they eat burgers (including nonbeef and nonmeat versions) at least once a month
high-quality vegetable toppings now suggest a “premium” burger for more than half (52%) of consumers, up from 46% in 2011
23% of consumers said that it’s important that burger serving restaurants offer vegan burgers.
Technomic’s blog about their report ends on this note: “Knowing how consumers’ priorities are shifting and how these shifts may affect their view of a particular brand is absolutely worthwhile.”
These two trend reports are among many others that reflect what Veggie Happy has been conveying to concession managers all over the country: consumer demand for plant-based options is not only real, it is growing.
It’s important to note that many consumers who choose plant based options happen to be flexitarians who also eat meat or dairy. Thus, our advice to foodservice directors: offer foods that have proven popularity with flexitarian consumers. Know what sells and why. (We advise on that and can facilitate samples for tastings.) When they do this, customers and sales alike will be healthier and happier for it!
Special thanks to Joe Jordan at Katahdin Ventures for informing us of these two studies.
Veggie Options Score Runs at Major League Baseball Stadiums
Concessions and Fans Both Win
Berkeley, CA.-April 23, 2013 – On opening day of Major League Baseball (MLB), 26 of the 30 stadiums had a vegetarian hot dog on their menus. At Safeco Field in Seattle, walking concession vendors will be selling vegetarian franks to fans throughout the stands and a designated cart will be serving customized vegan chili cheese dogs in addition to veggie burgers.
MLB parks have a come a long way since 2000, when vegetarian hot dogs were nonexistent on their menus and vegetarian options were generally limited to peanuts or pretzels. Enter Veggie Happy, an advocacy group that spoke up for fans who were bringing their own vegetarian food or choosing to eat before or after the games due to the limited options. Veggie Happy started with one fan, actress Johanna McCloy, who decided to take action by contacting all MLB concession managers and “making the pitch” for veggie dogs and other vegetarian fare. She cited statistics about the rise in demand for vegetarian options and empowered other fans to chime in. Concessionaires took heed and slowly began to introduce veggie dogs with her assistance. Veggie Happy also created a free “Venue Vegetarian Guide” on their web site (www.VeggieHappy.com) listing the vegetarian options at all MLB stadiums along with other professional sports venues.
At first, veggie dogs remained unmentioned in ballpark menu listings and were limited to one stand, sometimes located at the far end of a stadium. Most fans didn’t know they were even offered, so Veggie Happy hosted game outings and outreached locally to ensure awareness. McCloy even fielded comments on a Denver sports radio interview that veggie dogs in baseball were “un-American.” By 2013, it’s become a new ball game. Baseball fans will find such vegan options as frankfurters, sausages, burgers, Sloppy Janes, Philly cheese steaks, chicken fajitas, bean burritos, gluten free snack chips and more.
Ballparks are adding vegetarian all stars to their menus and generating runs for concessions and fans alike.
McCloy believes that adding tasty vegan options with proven appeal to mainstream consumers is the key to success, so she only pitches items with a big yummy factor.To that end, stadiums have been switching from generic veggie dogs to vegan frankfurters that appeal to “flexitarian” tastes. Safeco Field saw a 700% increase in sales from 2011-2012 after making the switch to Field Roast brand frankfurters. San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park and Cleveland Indians’ Progressive Field also saw their sales rise. Peggy Kalberer, Assistant Concessions Manager for the Cleveland Indians’ Progressive Field said, “With more and more people looking for healthier options, Veggie Happy makes it easy for fans to plan their visit to the ballpark (by offering the on-line guide). Our fans do not have to eat at home before coming to see a great game.”
David Lee, Field Roast president and founder said, “All baseball fans, whether we’re carnivores or vegans, Giants, Red Socks or Mariners fans, want to eat good All-American food at the ballpark, and that means frankfurters. We are proud to offer ballparks a real vegan frankfurter that is juicy, bold and traditionally seasoned to satisfy fans cravings.”
For more information about Veggie Happy and issues regarding vegetarian options in MLB (and other sports leagues), please visit: www.veggiehappy.com.
In 2000, Johanna attended her first Major League Baseball game and found no viable vegetarian menu options in the entire stadium. She realized that many fans were either bringing their own food or eating before or after the game, so she decided to speak up. She compiled statistics on the rise in demand for vegetarian options and presented her menu suggestions to the concession manager. In particular, she suggested the addition of a vegetarian hot dog.
She contacted every MLB park and offered her assistance as a liaison with popular manufacturers. She also reached out to baseball fans, consumer groups and supportive organizations, encouraging them to chime in. The Veggie Happy website (then called Soy Happy) was created as a resource, complete with an online Venue Vegetarian Guide listing every stadium’s menu and contact information.
Fans started to speak up, celebrities offered endorsements, media paid attention, and concession managers responded. When Veggie Happy started, none of the MLB parks offered veggie dogs. By opening day 2013, 26 of 30 MLB parks offered veggie dogs or frankfurters on their menus, many of them with our assistance. In 2003, Veggie Happy also acted as media and outreach coordinator for the Healthy School Lunch Resolution in California.
Recent foodservice forecasts and other reports, along with the personal feedback we’re getting from foodservice directors, all highlight the rise in demand for vegetarian/vegan options in mainstream eateries. Many people also want these options because they translate to choosing a healthier meal (with no cholesterol and far less fat, for starters.) We are posting references to some of these items on our Facebook page. Here’s a compilations of some recent posts:
“More than seven out of 10 consumers say they are trying to eat healthier at restaurants now than they did two years ago; women more so than men (75 percent vs. 66 percent). Similarly, about three-quarters of consumers say healthy menu options are an important factor when choosing a restaurant (80 percent of women vs. 71 percent of men).” From the National Restaurant Association’s 2013 Industry Forecast, released 12/11/12
“Our research suggested that our fans were seeking more vegetarian options. They have been some of our best sellers.” James Nolan, Gillette Stadium’s senior vice president of operations, administration, and finance (quoted in the Boston Globe.)
We helped to facilitate Field Roast Grain Meat products at the 49ers’ Candlestick Park this year. We’ve been told that they are doing better than any other brand offered there in the past and that their specialty burgers are a particular favorite, even among meat eaters.
#4 of the 2013 Top Ten Food Trends: “Veggies take over the plate: No longer prepared as just a side or salad, vegetables will get their chance to star as the main dish.” (Per the Sterling-Rice Group, a brand strategy firm)
People often refer to Thanksgiving as “turkey day” because of the traditional holiday meal. With this in mind, we thought we’d talk some turkey. We offer some quick facts, a couple of stories, and a few menu ideas for a delicious Thanksgiving feast.
First, some quick facts. (Bolded text is for emphasis.)
From The National Turkey Federation: ”In 2011, more than 248.5 million turkeys were raised. More than 219 million were consumed in the United States. We estimate that 46 million of those turkeys were eaten at Thanksgiving, 22 million at Christmas and 19 million at Easter. Nearly 88 percent of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation eat turkey at Thanksgiving.”
From the Humane Society of the United States (quoting a prominent poultry researcher:) ”Two decades ago the goal of every grower was to ensure that the flock grew as rapidly as possible. However, the industry has developed a broiler that, if grown as rapidly as possible, will achieve a body mass that cannot be supported by the bird’s heart, respiratory system or skeleton. The situation has forced growers to make a choice. Is it more profitable to grow the biggest bird possible and have increased mortality due to heart attacks, ascites, and leg problems, or should birds be grown slower so that birds are smaller, but have fewer heart, lung and skeletal problems?…A large portion of growers’ pay is based on the pound of saleable meat produced, so simple calculations suggest that it is better to get the weight and ignore the mortality.”
Now, some turkey rescue stories.
In 2001, we participated in a turkey rescue in Los Angeles that was coordinated by Farm Sanctuary. It was en emotional experience, gathering up 100 huge and frightened turkeys from an auto parts salvage yard, where they’d been set free for what was to be “The Great American Turkey Hunt,” allowing anyone who paid 25 cents the opportunity to take home the first one they were able to grab. (These birds had been purchased from a factory farm.) Animal control officials ordered the owner of the yard to cease and desist from the promotion just two days before it was to happen. Farm Sanctuary offered to rescue them and after some deliberation, the owner of the yard relented.
It was a harrowing experience, getting a hold of the frightened turkeys throughout the salvage yard. Due to factory farming, some of the turkeys were unable to walk due to the burden of the unnatural weight on their now broken legs, while others were very sick and needed immediate veterinary assistance. Ultimately, however, it was a heart warming experience, as all the volunteers helped to place the rescued birds on secured patches of hay inside a semi truck trailer headed to the Orland sanctuary. At the sanctuary, they’d be cared for and given a chance to live out the rest of their natural lives with plenty of space to roam and loads of love to go with it. (Check out Farm Sanctuary’s page on some of the ways you can help to make a difference for turkeys.)
You can go without a turkey and still experience a tasty, filling and traditionally themed Thanksgiving meal. There are plenty of great menus/recipes to choose from.The November/December issue of VegNews Magazine has several pages of holiday feast recipes (for a traditional meal, a gluten free meal and a decadent meal)along with photos that will make you salivate and want them ALL. We don’t see these features online yet, so pick one up from the news stands now.
Also, if you want to experience the taste and texture of turkey at the center of your plate, you can still do that with a store-bought, plant-based replacement.You’ll be amazed at how incredible these options are at fulfilling any appetite for turkey. Just look in the frozen foods section of your natural food market. (Large supermarket chains will have a few brands, as well.) Below are two of the options that we’ve enjoyed.
Field Roast has several holiday roasts to choose from. Note that all Field Roast products are also vegan. Find a local store that provides them by entering your zip code on their “Where To Buy” page.
From their website: ”Family feasts, holiday gatherings or a simple dinner for two; our Celebration Roast is the ultimate in vegetarian sophistication. We start with a rich and savory sausage-style stuffing made from Field Roast grain meat, fresh cut butternut squash, mushrooms and granny smith apples seasoned with a blend of rosemary, thyme and sage. We then surround the stuffing with our most luxuriant grain meat seasoned with rubbed sage, garlic and lemon juice. As a centerpiece, appetizer or sliced in a sandwich, our Celebration Roast is perfect for any occasion. Available in both 1 lb & 2 lbs.”
Quorn is a brand from the U.K. It is a soy-free, mycro-protein loaf that has amazing similarity in taste and texture to white turkey breast. This product is not vegan as it contains some egg white. Available throughout the U.S.
You can also do an easy search for “Thanksgiving vegetarian recipes” onlineand you’ll have plenty of links and fabulous ideas to choose from.
Vegetarian feasts to satisfy your Thanksgiving cravings. Now, that’s something to be thankful for!
Greg also shared with us that his friends, some of whom are not vegetarian, love the veggie burgers there, as well. We’re Veggie Happy to hear that! That’s what we’re all about. Encouraging options that appeal not only to vegetarians or vegans, but to flexitarian fans as well!
Me and my wife at the second Indians game of the year
Last year, my wife and I planned on attending an Indians game in the late spring. I was all ready to enjoy what I had always thought were the only vegan options at a sporting event, peanuts and beer, but with my wife being pregnant I decided to scour the internet to see if there were any substantial vegan options for us at Progressive Field. A few minutes into the search, BAM, I found Veggie Happy (Soy Happy at the time). Let’s just say that night we both enjoyed a vegan hotdog as we watched my beloved Indians get destroyed by the Rays. Beyond excited, by the food not the loss, I returned home and sent an email to Veggie Happy.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Cody and I am a vegan, a native Clevelander and now, I will be assuming the role of volunteer Veggie Happy Manager for the Cleveland Indians and the Cleveland Browns. Pretty sweet, right? I think so. I have been a vegan for around five years and was a vegetarian for about four years prior to that. I am a total vegan foodie; constantly prowling the local vegan restaurants and searching for great options at more traditional eateries.
But what about sports? Well, as most of you know, Clevelanders are pretty die-hard sports fans. I am no different. Sundays, the house is filled with the sounds of the Brownies and summer nights are set to the soundtrack of Tom Hamilton calling the balls and strikes. I am also the co-founder of and writer at C-Town & Down; a Cleveland sports blog and podcast.
I am excited to join the Veggie Happy team and do my part in representing my fellow herbivores. Below, I have included a number of ways in which I encourage ANYBODY to get in touch with me with comments, questions or concerns.