My Personal Quest to Get McDonald's
to Add a Veggie Burger to Their Standard Menu
I'm not a strict vegetarian, but I recognize that there are major problems with the production and consumption of meat products. There are obviously the health and animal cruelty issues, but my biggest concerns are the environmental problems.
As I stated in my page on the environment, there are a huge number of adverse environmental impacts from the production of meat. Enormous amounts of land are cleared for cattle grazing and for raising feed for livestock, and much of this land is in extremely sensitive areas, such as rainforests. Farmers must plant and harvest sixteen pounds of feed crops in order to produce one pound of beef. If farmland were used instead just to produce crops for people, we could feed far more people using far less land. Plus, once all this land is cleared to support meat production, it is then decimated - both cattle grazing and the chemically intensive methods that most farmers use to raise feed crops for cattle are major contributors to topsoil loss. Moreover, the pollution caused by chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides used to grow feed crops, and by the excrement of chickens, pigs, and cattle, runs off into rivers, lakes and oceans, killing fish, coral reefs, and anything else that depends on clean water. And speaking of water, about 50% of the water used in the United States goes to livestock production, contributing to the rapid depletion of our natural aquifers.
McDonald's is the largest fast food chain in the world (and probably the biggest user of beef). So getting them to offer a vegetarian alternative to their traditional burgers would go a long way toward making vegetarian meals convenient and accessible to a huge number of people.
From the FAQ on the McDonald's web page:
Do you have a Veggie Burger on your menu?
At this time McDonald's does not have a vegetarian burger on its standard menu. A few McDonald's restaurants in New York are testing a veggie burger. There are no plans to test this sandwich anywhere else in the United States. We do, however, continuously review our menu, develop new products, and search for ways to satisfy the many tastes of the 40 million customers we serve each day. Ultimately, it's our customers who choose what's on our menu and, we'll continue to offer those products that are most popular with our customers.
Actually, McDonald's in the UK (and at least a couple other European countries) have served a vegetarian burger for quite some time. In the UK, it is apparently called the "Vegetable Deluxe." (But the way, according to a newsgroup posting I saw, Burger King in the UK apparently has two veggie burgers, a Bean Burger and a Veggie Whopper. The Veggie Whopper apparently even carries the Vegetarian Society logo, meaning that it has to be prepared in a separate area, away from the meat products.)
The downtown New York McDonald's restaurants have been test marketing the "McVeggie" since around May 1998. It has reportedly done quite well, but it still has not been introduced nationwide.
I'm not sure why they haven't done this yet, but they apparently need a bit more of a push. I have written to them to encourage them to move beyond the test marketing phase, and introduce a vegetarian burger in all of their restaurants. Click here to see the message I sent via their web site, and the reply I received from McDonald's. You can use the sample letter below to send your own message.
Here is a sample letter that you can use to encourage McDonald's to add a vegetarian burger to their standard menu. You can mail it to their corporate headquarters and/or submit it through the comments section of their web site.
Dear Sir or Madam,
I understand that McDonald's has been test marketing a veggie burger in some of its New York restaurants. I also understand that a vegetarian burger has been available for quite some time in many of your restaurants in Europe. I am writing to urge you to introduce a veggie burger as a standard menu item in all of your restaurants nationwide as soon as possible.
As I am sure you are aware, veggie burgers have become increasingly popular, and not just among vegetarians. They are now offered in many restaurants as an alternative to beef hamburgers, and the quality of many vegetarian burgers has reached the level that they taste at least as good as beef burgers. If McDonald's were to make a commitment to developing and marketing a veggie burger, I certain that it would be extremely popular.
There are other reasons for McDonald's to put its full support behind marketing a veggie burger. McDonald's has publicly committed itself to being an environmental leader, and it has made important improvements in waste reduction and other areas. Nevertheless, the fact remains that meat production causes far more environmental destruction than any other type of food production. The amount of land that needs to be cleared for cattle grazing and growing feed crops for cattle is vastly greater than that required to grow an equivalent amount of crops for human consumption (approximately 16 pounds of feed crops and a huge amount of water resources are required to produce only one pound of beef). Plus, the use of that land for cattle grazing is far more destructive, resulting in the loss of topsoil, the soiling of streams and rivers, and other harms.
I am not a strict vegetarian, but, for environmental and heath reasons, I do try to avoid meat products most of the time. At the same time, I have always enjoyed the convenience and the quality of McDonald's food. If there were a veggie burger option available, I would certainly take advantage of eating at McDonald's restaurants more often.
Thank you for listening to your customers.
<< your name >>
P.S. It would be great if there were a basic veggie burger
(which could also be used in Happy Meals), as well as a larger veggie burger
with more toppings (something more like a veggie equivalent of the Big Mac or
the Quarter Pounder).
If you want to focus your letter on the environmental advantages of encouraging vegetarian diets:
McDonald's Environmental Affairs
Oak Brook, IL 60521
If you are a shareholder in McDonalds, you might want to send a letter to their investor relations office:
McDonald's Investor Relations Service Center
Oak Brook, IL 60523
Or you can send this to any of the McDonald's corporate offices outside of the United States. A list addresses is available on the McDonald's web site.
Finally, while the focus of this campaign is McDonald's, you can easily expand this and send letters to other hamburger chains. Here are some addresses you can use:
Burger King Corporation
17777 Old Cutler Road
Miami, Florida 33157
Wendy’s Customer Service
Wendy’s International, Inc.
4288 W. Dublin-Granville Rd.
Dublin, OH 43017
Ingredients: water, soy protein concentrate, corn oil, soy protein isolate, methycellulose, natural flavors, salt, modified cornstarch, maltodextrin, malt extract, hydrolyzed wheat protein, dried onion, garlic powder, black pepper, spices, natural smoke flavor, beet powder, autolyzed yeast extract, corn syrup solids.
Serving Size: 3.2 ounce burger
Calories: 200 Calories from Fat: 120
Total Fat: 13g (20% Daily Value)
Saturated Fat: 2g (10% Daily Value)
Cholesterol: 0mg (0% Daily Value)
Sodium: 410mg (17% Daily Value)
Total Carbohydrate: 11g (4% Daily Value)
Dietary Fiber: 4g
Sugars: less than 1g
The organization Vegan Action has an ongoing "McVegan" campaign - but it is more focused on raising awareness of the benefits of a vegan diet, than on getting McDonalds to add vegan or vegetarian food to its menu.
22 July 2005