In response to a petition on change.org urging McDonalds to begin offering healthy meatless options to its patrons, the fast food giant released a public statement recently on WBEZ (Chicago Public Radio):
“At this time, we have many menu items that can be customized without meat like our Premium McWraps and Salads, as well as many breakfast options that are available to order without meat and still provide a source of protein.”
The petition, which has 80,000 signatures and counting, has received some high-profile support from celebrities urging the public to get on board. Supporters include New York Times food writer Mark Bittman, Bizzare Foods host Andrew Zimmern, television host Ellen Degeneres, hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, actress Alicia Silverstone, and others.
Kathy Freston, a New York Times best-selling author of healthy living books, and the petition’s author, isn’t sold on McDonald’s response. In a press release, Kathy said, "I hope they know McLettuce won't do the trick! I would love to meet with McDonald's because they seem to mistakenly believe that a healthy plant-based option means eating a tortilla with lettuce. McDonald's talks about customer choice and evolving their menu yet their solution is to remove ingredients rather than replace them with nutritious and delicious options that will reduce risk of heart disease, obesity, and many other problems facing the country.”
We spoke with Freston about the importance of the issue getting McDonald’s to make some real changes to their menu. First of all, why McDonald’s?"Why not work together with the fast food giant to provide healthier options for everyone? Why not make everyone happy?"
“McDonald’s is the fast food giant that is most visible and (used to be) most beloved by so many millions of Americans," she told us." By their own admission, they’ve recently lost some of their relevance to their customers, so I thought, “well then, certainly they will want to hear what the people are saying and wanting. There is a very large sector of people who regularly get their meals at fast food restaurants like McDonald’s. That’s not going to change. There are a whole lot of people who like burgers and chicken sandwiches; that’s not going to change, either. So why not work together with the fast food giant to provide healthier options for everyone? Why not make everyone happy?”
McDonald’s reluctance to offer vegetarian options in the U.S. is particularly frustrating because veggie burgers are already available in McDonald’s restaurants in Canada, Germany, and India. As for American customers, the McGiant insists that any item can be made to order, minus the meat.
The menu update is important even for those customers who will continue to eat at McDonald’s whether or not the company makes a change. Those people, says Freston, deserve healthier and more humane food options from an establishment they visit regularly. Given that McDonald’s has already admitted losing customers to healthier restaurant chains, Freston thinks the solution couldn’t be more clear. Of consumers themselves, Freston said, ”We have to work within the system. We have a voice, and our voice can politely encourage people and corporations to choose their food more consciously. It's a step in a very good direction; it's progress! To turn our backs on McDonald’s rather than try and work with them is to waste a big opportunity for a lean toward the better. “
If you'd like to see a McVeggie on an American menu, sign the petition here.