McDonald’s recently announced that they’ll be adding two vegetarian restaurants in India by 2013, to both applause and controversy over the effects it could have on local culture. India’s overwhelming number of vegetarians (many Indians avoid meat–particularly beef and pork–for religious reasons) has inspired the company to develop a menu with vegetarian options in the hundreds of locations throughout India, but some say the company’s attempt to appeal to Hindu customers is insulting, given that it capitalizes on the sales of beef and pork products. Religious and moral conundrums aside, though, I think there’s one somewhat optimistic take-away : That a meat-free golden arches could be ours, too.
In a statement from McDonald’s spokeswoman Becca Hary, the company says they can’t speculate about whether vegetarian restaurants might open in other countries. But it’s not impossible:
McDonald’s listens to what our customers ask for and we certainly will continue to cater to local tastes and preferences.
This is a pretty classic PR sound-byte…but the optimist in me wants to believe that it’s true. And judging by the company’s restaurants in India, it is.
Most of us don’t walk up to restaurant managers and tell them what we wish was on the menu, or let them know that, if they were to offer excellent vegetarian options, we’d likely become a regular customer. But just like we should all stay informed about what we’re eating, we should also let our suppliers–be they farmers, grocery stores, or restaurants–know what we want. Because, as McDonald’s says, if you ask for it, they’ll often try to cater to your demands.
Brendan McDermott, a butcher we recently interviewed about eating meat responsibly, explained that if you can’t find the options you want, it may not be that hard to create them:
…if you do have a butcher and you’re not exactly sure where the quality is or you have a small market, then you can say that you’re looking for better quality meat. And the more people say that they want a product, the more a supplier is going to look for it, because they know they can make money from it.
And, if you’re too shy/time-starved/uncomfortable telling people at your local McDonald’s (or other restaurant) that you want vegetarian, organic, grass-fed options, then take to the internet! Twitter, Facebook, and email all provide easy ways to let people know what you want, and while my inner skeptic says that McDonald’s is probably not going to become a local, organic, vegan-friendly eatery anytime soon, the optimist in me says that if you voice your demands, they or someone else will respond. Because ultimately, if enough customers want to buy something, someone will find a way to provide it.
Photo: flickr user bandarji