Should vegans eat cross-contaminated food?

Cross contamination is a point of contempt for many vegans. If you’ve been eating plant-based for quite some time, the thought alone of your food being cooked alongside meat might sound downright gross. Those of us who are vegan for ethical reasons might feel guilty at the thought of our Impossible burger sizzling next to a burger that came from a cow. But should we?

Supporting vegan products helps us create a vegan world

The animal agriculture industry has a death grip on the U.S. market. Powerful lobbyist groups like the National Dairy Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the American Egg Board make sure of it. Government subsidies and strong political pressure prevent these harmful and unsustainable industries from being held accountable.

To say the least, the plant-based food sector is an underdog. With far less harm to animals and a substantially less environmental impact, the rise of vegan alternatives can bring much-needed change to our society. But plant-based foods need our help. 

Without powerful lobbyists to back them up, the plant-based food industry relies solely on the public to vote with our dollar. These companies need our help to fight tooth-and-nail for their place in the market. And as vegans, we’ve been successful!

In fact, grocery sales of plant-based foods that directly replace animal products (mock meats, alternative dairy, etc) have grown 6 percent in the past year—and 54 percent in the last three years—to become a $7.4 billion industry. In the last five years, fast food joints and other restaurants have picked up on the change. Beyond, Impossible, and other major mock meat companies have found their place in nearly every major fast food chain across America.

At the end of the day, corporations care about what is profitable: and that is all. It may sound dismal, but it’s the truth. They aren’t going to wake up and have an ethical enlightenment on their own. So we have to speak their language: money. The day that plant-based foods become more profitable than animal-based foods is the day that vegan food takes the lead. Could you imagine the difference this could make?

Supporting accessible options makes it easier for people in diverse communities to eat plant-based

Did you know that 23.5 million people across the U.S. live in food deserts? A food desert is a low-income community with little to no access to healthy, affordable food. People living in food deserts struggle to nourish themselves because they have no means to.  

People in food deserts often rely on fast food as one of their only options. Veganism is not just for people who are financially comfortable. If we truly want people to adopt plant-based diets, we need to make plant-based food available to anyone and everyone who seeks it. If fast food and chain restaurants are some of your only means of eating, vegan options can provide a healthier alternative and enable you to make a difference. 

When we refuse to support accessible vegan products because we dislike the way food is stored or prepared, we are taking these options away from people who might need them.

Aside from income and geography, there are loads of reasons why someone might want chain or fast food vegan options. 

Some vegans might not enjoy the taste of mock meats. But for others, tastes and textures that mimic old favorites can help bridge the gap into a vegan lifestyle. We must also remember that not everyone has the same level of dedication to eating plant-based. When we make vegan food easy and cheap to access, we encourage these people to make the right decision. Think of it this way: every time that someone orders an Impossible burger instead of a beef burger at their favorite burger stop, pressure is reduced on animals and our planet. 

If that option wasn’t available, would that person have stuck to their plant-based guns? Maybe, maybe not.

Can you think of a time you might have been in a position where you just needed a quick meal? On a road trip, a work break, a night when you just don’t have the time to cook or the money to order high end food?

In the grand scheme of things, we believe that cross-contamination is the least of our worries. Supporting vegan products wherever they are available helps make veganism a more realistic feat for everyday people.

But doesn’t eating at non-vegan restaurants support the meat industry?

This is a loaded question. It’s true that it doesn’t always feel good to put our money into companies that also profit off of animal products. But it’s nearly impossible not to. Do you shop at a grocery store which also sells animal products? Pump your gas at stations with convenience shops that sell non-vegan snacks? With non-vegan food being “the norm”, it’s difficult to avoid companies that sell animal products.

Supporting vegan restaurants is wonderful and should always be the first option, but not all communities have the privilege of being full of them. And even the most seasoned of vegans get roped into going out to restaurants that might not be their first choice- birthday parties, work team meetings, family celebrations, and so on.

An important thing to remember is that while cross contamination might be gross, eating cross-contaminated food doesn’t buy into the meat industry. Many of us became vegan or experiment with plant-based foods because we don’t feel comfortable supporting cruel and unsustainable industries. 

We’re only supporting animal agriculture when we buy animal products. In an imperfect world, we do the best we can. Setting realistic standards for ourselves sets us up for success in the long run. If you’re eating plant-based, you’re already doing more than most for animals and for our planet. Be proud of yourself!

A Matter of Choice

At the end of the day, what you eat is a matter of choice. We’re here to make the right choice easier for you. If you are someone who isn’t comfortable with cross-contamination, we’re here for you, too! Vegan Unlocked attaches allergen menus to each and every one of our restaurant posts. 

We’re here to spark dialogue and create a more accessible community for vegans of all shapes and sizes. Thanks for listening!