Supply and Demand

Please note: This article was first published on The Vegan Tourist and last updated January 16, 2012.

I created The Vegan Tourist shortly after I became a vegan about a year ago. All of a sudden, dining out became a challenge. Many restaurants offer a few vegetarian dishes, but they usually contain eggs and/or milk products. Not many restaurants cater to vegans.

I realized there was a demand that was not being met, not even recognized, and The Vegan Tourist was created out of my frustration with not being able to fully participate in the marketplace. I have money, I want to spend it, but I can’t: supply and demand are out of sync. Businesses are not offering consumers want they want.

It seems I’m not the only one who’s frustrated. In a recent article, journalist A.G. Sulzberger, chief of the Kansas City (Missouri) bureau for the New York Times, described the challenges of being a vegetarian in the Midwest: at one restaurant, his “meal” was a baked potato, at another his only option was a bread roll; at a third restaurant, his “safest option” was a mug of beer. (A.G.Sulzberger, The New York Times: “Meatless in the Midwest: A Tale of Survival”)

He goes on to describe a region where people are proud to be meat-lovers and vegetables are hard to find on restaurant menus. The owner of a vegetarian restaurant in Omaha, Nebraska, had “several pounds of ground beef thrown at its doors shortly after opening.”

When did vegetarians become the enemy? And what exactly are we guilty of? Eating our greens? Or not eating animals? Why should it offend anyone if we are eating fruits and vegetables instead of meat?

Contrary to popular belief, the Midwest doesn’t just raise cattle and pigs. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the value of production dollars for soybeans in Missouri in 2010 was US$ 5,616,391,000.00. That’s well over five billion dollars.

Another important crop in Missouri is rice (over 183 million dollars production value in 2010); wheat (almost 65 million) and potatoes (over 22 million) also create considerable income for Missouri’s farmers. They also grow watermelons and grapes, nuts and berries, as well as alfalfa. All are foods which vegetarians love to eat.

It’s even more astounding that the owner of a vegetarian restaurant in Nebraska was terrorized by a meat-thrower. One can only conclude that this anonymous terrorist was someone who’s terrified of vegetables, and people who eat them.

Nebraska produces considerable amounts of soybeans, wheat, potatoes, sunflower seeds, millet, oats, and all kinds of beans as well as peas. In 2010, the value of production dollars for edible beans in Nebraska was well over 76 million US dollars.

Ever heard of a vegan chilli? Throw some of those beans in a pot, add a few (locally grown) sweet potatoes, and serve a bowl of rice on the side. We also like the occasional tofu burger. Stop considering soy beans as animal feed and start looking at them as food.

Vegetarians aren’t the enemy. We’re consumers whose needs aren’t being met. Midwestern farmers should stop considering us as a “threat” and start thinking of vegetarians as a business opportunity that should be exploited. People are eating less meat, which means that farmers who raise cattle and pigs and chickens won’t have many opportunities to grow their businesses and increase their incomes.

But there’s opportunity for growth for vegetable and fruit farmers. And there are even bigger opportunities in organic farming.

So stop throwing meat at us, and start going after our money instead.

It’s yours for the taking.

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