Written by Kon-Tiki Taco
The numbers continue to add up: Vegetarianism is firmly established in the culture, while sometime-vegetarians make meat-free choices very often.
This just in from the Not-Terribly-Surprising News Bureau: Vegetarianism is very common in California. This is evident in directories of vegetarian restaurants and food stores in the state (more than 2100), to websites devoted to southern California meat-free living to the fact that a privately-operated California prison, the Victor Valley Medium Community Correctional Facility in Adelanto, California incorporated a voluntary vegan program for inmates that effectively contributed to a dramatic downturn in its recidivism rate (according to a Prison Law Blog, an attorney’s website).
So it should not be terribly surprising that mobile taco carts that provide taco catering have gone vegetarian, or at the very least offer vegetarian menu options. Whether it’s sophisticated, discerning diners or ex-offenders, going meat-free is a valid choice for Americans, Californians in particular.
But it goes beyond the strict vegetarians: There are also the “flexitarians,” those who might choose vegetarian meal options much of the time. Indeed, a full 22.8 million Americans were found by Harris Interactive Service Bureau pollsters in 2012 to follow a “vegetarian-inclined diet.” In addition, 7.3 million people in the poll said they are fully vegetarian (totals projected from scientific population sampling). Cumulatively, about 5 percent of American adults identify as vegetarians.
Those are big numbers – and the reason so many products and purveyors are coming up with plant-derived protein ingredients. For some vegetarians, soy, beans, nuts and cheese are sufficient. But to adapt some recipes to vegetarian preferences, tacos included, meat substitute products have been developed. Based on vegetable oils, legumes, other vegetables (including carrageenan, derived from seaweed), “beeflike” crumbles and other products are available to expand menu offerings. Prepared in combination with spicy sauces and crunchy vegetables found in gourmet tacos, it’s a convincing and satisfying meal.
The reasons people choose to be vegetarian vary from individual to individual, of course. Almost all go that route for health benefits, including avoiding hormones and antibiotics that are in most American meat and poultry. For others, it’s out of concern for the welfare of animals, particularly given reported inhumane treatment in factory feedlots and warehouse-like chicken farms. Most vegetarians are aware also that the amount of resources required to create protein by way of cattle is six times that of what’s needed to grow a protein equivalency in plants. The net effect of vegetarians and flexitarians is that American per-capita consumption of meat has been dropping for more than a decade, with consumption projected to drop in 2014 by 4.8 percent over 2013.
For event planners who must be attentive to the needs of all attendees – carnivores and vegetarians alike – inclusion by mobile taco carts of vegetarian tacos as an option is increasingly advised. Even if few claim the vegetarian mantle as occupying religious status in their lives, they just feel better about eating a meatless taco when given the choice.