Plant Based Food Association Labeling Standards

There write-up is a solid start to a problem.

My dream involves a small ‘V’ placed in a circle at the bottom right of all foods that are vegan. I want to do the Supermarket Twist™ a little less as I pirouette every item to my face trying to read the ingredients list.

And although these aren’t explicitly vegan ideas, I’d also love to see foods state their water-usage, carbon footprint, and… something more complicated: I want something that essentially on a 1 to 10 scale scores that general detriment of a product, like if it’s high on salt or saturated fat or sugar it would be low on the scale while dehydrated vegetables with nothing added to them would be 9s or 10s.

‘Every Ridiculous Food Trend Predicted for 2020’

Eater has put up a beautiful (and long) list that culls what many major food publications predict for 2020 with food. Many are vegan or vegan-adjacent, and I’m not going to list them all but these are some of the things I’m excited about too:

  • Aronia berries
  • Ube
  • Spreads and butters like macadamia nut butter and watermelon seed butter
  • Zero-waste
  • CRISPR crops
  • “Less focus on the center of the plate more on the outskirts”
  • “Mexican cuisine will be more recognized as complex and layered – rather than always spicy and heavy”
  • Family-style tasting menus, family-style dining 
  • “Technically illegal” tonka beans (!)

Zero waste really needs to pop-off. As food delivery pushes into a larger and larger portion of how most Americans are consuming their meals, this deserves more focus and energy.

‘The Blue Whale’s Heart Beats at Extremes’

Ed Yong for The Atlantic:

For the first time, scientists recorded a cardiogram from the largest animal that has ever lived.

The heart of a blue whale, diving off the coast of California, has just contracted. The beat took about two seconds to finish, and pushed dozens of gallons of blood through the arteries of the largest animal that lives or has ever lived. According to Jeremy Goldbogen of Stanford University, the first person to attach a heart monitor to a blue whale at sea, the creature’s organ constantly swings between extremes of speed. During a dive, it can conserve oxygen by slowing down to just two beats a minute. If you’re reading this piece at an average speed, that’s roughly one beat at the end of every paragraph. (Ba-bum.)

That (Ba-bum) is a beautiful way to connect with the natural world through writing. I love this.

‘Vegetarian and Vegan Los Angeles’

I found an incredibly in-depth history of vegetarian and vegan food in Los Angeles from Eric Brightwell. Check out this part about the first vegetarian restaurant in LA:

By the late 1890s, there were devoted vegetarian restaurants in New York City, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco — but none in Los Angeles. In 1900, associates of John Harvey Kellogg‘s Battle Creek Sanitarium opened Los Angeles’s first dedicated vegetarian restaurant on 3rd Street. Perhaps restaurant naming conventions were different back then as it was imprecisely referred to in print as both “the Vegetarian restaurant” and “the Vegetarian café.”

This article is overflowing with interesting tidbits, but it’s especially nice to be able to see actual photos and even videos of some of the restaurants — especially the Kellogg’s spot that opened up beside Angel’s Flight.

I loved the bit about raw food being called “unfired food”. And I wasn’t surprised to see the massive connection between veggie-eating with religion and cult.

And it’s fascinating to see the power of a novel and its influence on American dining:

Upton Sinclair‘s novel, The Jungle, was published in 1906. Although Sinclair hoped to The Jungle promote socialism, most readers were more affected by the descriptions of run-of-the-mill health violations, unsanitary conditions, and gruesome violence of the meatpacking industry. Sinclair noted of the reaction, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident, I hit it in the stomach.” In its wake, a wave of vegetarian restaurants opened and a directory of vegetarian restaurants in the US from that year listed 57.

It’s hard to imagine anything having that kind of power today.

‘Why are people malnourished in the richest country on earth?’

Tracie McMillan writes a thoughtful and difficult piece for National Geographic:

Chances are good that if you picture what hunger looks like, you don’t summon an image of someone like Christina Dreier: white, married, clothed, and housed, even a bit overweight. The image of hunger in America today differs markedly from Depression-era images of the gaunt-faced unemployed scavenging for food on urban streets. […]

In the United States more than half of hungry households are white, and two-thirds of those with children have at least one working adult—typically in a full-time job. With this new image comes a new lexicon: In 2006 the U.S. government replaced “hunger” with the term “food insecure” to describe any household where, sometime during the previous year, people didn’t have enough food to eat. By whatever name, the number of people going hungry has grown dramatically in the U.S., increasing to 48 million by 2012—a fivefold jump since the late 1960s, including an increase of 57 percent since the late 1990s.

And these numbers will keep growing as the divide between the poor and the wealthy grows wider.

It can be tempting to ask families receiving food assistance, If you’re really hungry, then how can you be—as many of them are—overweight? The answer is “this paradox that hunger and obesity are two sides of the same coin,” says Melissa Boteach, vice president of the Poverty and Prosperity Program of the Center for American Progress, “people making trade-offs between food that’s filling but not nutritious and may actually contribute to obesity.”

It’s terrible that obesity would be an indicator of hunger or malnourishment. It could be a different picture if the government would subsidize the right things. This part, with emphasis mine, speaks to that:

These are the very crops that end up on Christina Dreier’s kitchen table in the form of hot dogs made of corn-raised beef, Mountain Dew sweetened with corn syrup, and chicken nuggets fried in soybean oil. They’re also the foods that the U.S. government supports the most. In 2012 it spent roughly $11 billion to subsidize and insure commodity crops like corn and soy, with Iowa among the states receiving the highest subsidies. The government spends much less to bolster the production of the fruits and vegetables its own nutrition guidelines say should make up half the food on our plates. In 2011 it spent only $1.6 billion to subsidize and insure “specialty crops”—the bureaucratic term for fruits and vegetables.

The USA needs to subsidize produce with a focus on health. Every dollar that goes against that is a dollar squandered, and it’s easy to see this in our population. The government is the reason fast food is cheaper than vegetables. The general health of the people should be considered our government’s problem, because it starts with what crops they subsidize.

‘The village that’s been vegan for 50 years’

Abigail Klein Leichman for ISRAEL21c:

Everyone knows that Tel Aviv is the vegan capital of Israel, right? After all, it’s home to scores of vegan restaurants and many of the 5 percent of Israelis who eat a plant-based diet.

Well, here’s a surprise: Long before you could get veggie shawarma in Tel Aviv, a community in the desert town of Dimona pioneered the vegan lifestyle in Israel.

They’re called the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem and they live in a compound called Neve Shalom (Village of Peace). The original 138 members of the community, mostly natives of Chicago, arrived in Israel in 1969.

I found many parts of their veganism fascinating. For them, it stems from specific Bible verses:

They are not Jewish, but they consider the Bible their history and guidebook.

In Genesis 1:29-30, a plant-based diet is prescribed for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree on which is the fruit yielding seed; to you it shall be for food. … everything that has the breath of life in it, I give every green herb for food.”


“We eat foods in season and no foods that are seedless. For example, no seedless grapes or watermelon. That goes back to the biblical verse about ‘every herb bearing seed.’ There’s something about the seed that makes it the proper food for our consumption and if you tamper with that it would have a negative effect,” says Ben Yehuda.

And I love this bit showing their dedication:

In the early days, the Hebrew Israelites could not find vegan staples like tofu and soymilk in Israel. So one community member was sent to Japan to learn how to manufacture them.

“When he came back, we invested in a factory producing tofu and that led to an entire range of foods that [we] began to develop from soy and other sources,” says Ben Yehuda.

The company they started has gone on to produce over 200 products, including the cheese for Domino’s vegan pizza in Israel. It shows what a little dedication and time will do.

‘Proposed Bill Wants All Plant-Based Beef Labeled ‘Imitation’’

Jenny G. Zhang for Eater:

A new bipartisan bill requiring beef that’s not derived from cows (i.e., plant-based beef like Impossible Burgers) to be labeled “imitation” was proposed in Congress on Monday, Food Dive reports. The legislation, called the Real Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully Act (or the Real MEAT Act), was introduced by Rep. Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat whose district covers a rural part of New York, and Rep. Roger Marshall, a Republican from Kansas.


The proposed bill, as currently written, suggests that slapping a prominent “imitation” label on plant-based beef would prevent “confusion” and “ensure that consumers can make informed decisions in choosing between meat products such as beef and imitation meat products.” Brindisi, in a statement by the United States Cattlemen’s Association obtained by Food Dive, emphasized this line of thinking: “American families have a right to know what’s in their food … Accurate labeling helps consumers make informed decisions and helps ensure families have access to a safe, abundant, affordable food supply.”

However, there’s little evidence that consumers are actually confused about the difference between plant-based and animal-based meat. In the dairy world, where the use of the word “milk” has similarly been a source of contention, the majority of consumers know that plant-based milk doesn’t contain dairy, per a survey from the International Food Information Council.

I think honesty is a good practice if there is confusion, but I don’t think anyone is confused by plant-based products.

If we’re open to discussing clear labeling, meat could be better too. I’d love to see meats labeled about their: antibiotics the animal received, square-footage allotted to each animal in their lifetime, percentage of time spent outside per day, whether the animal was at any point maimed without anesthesia, and if this product contains fecal matter. It’d also be nice to see a reversal on the ag-gag laws that were passed to ban videos from being recorded in slaughterhouses. Is that not the kind of honesty they like?

‘Anthony Bourdain Doc in the Works From CNN, ’20 Feet From Stardom’ Director’

A feature documentary about the late television star and chef Anthony Bourdain is in the works from Focus Features, CNN Films and HBO Max, to be directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville. 


“Anthony Bourdain did more to help us understand each other than just about anyone in the history of television. He connected with people not in spite of his flaws, but because of them. To have the opportunity to tell his story is humbling. CNN is in the DNA of Tony’s work, and the perfect partners in this journey. I’m thrilled to be reteaming with Focus Features after our journey on Won’t You Be My Neighbor?.”

I’m really looking forward to this, and Morgan Neville is one of my favorite documentary filmmakers. This is good news.

‘Wildseed is vegan — but don’t call it that’

Soleil Ho has been on a tear recently for the SF Chronicle writing about their vegan community. In her latest, this part on language pulled me in:

Though zealotry is a common negative stereotype about vegans, it’s interesting to see how a dietary proselytization is reframed at Wildseed. The purpose of the restaurant, whose owners are mostly omnivorous but spent some time eating vegan to better understand the idea, is to win over agnostics of an occasional vegan diet. There’s even explicit language in Wildseed’s promotional materials that ties that choice with moral and ethical goodness: “Wildseed offers guests a chance to make a better choice — a place where you can feel good about the decisions you are making,” the website states. Still, the language is soft and almost vague in its calls to action, refraining from doomsaying or calling out bad behavior.

The menu at Wildseed avoids using the word “vegan,” which leads to slight confusion when ingredients like sour cream and Parmesan are presented plainly. Though the menu does say that everything is “plant-based,” it’s reasonable for newbies to do some mental contortion and assume that sun + grass x cow = cheese. […] (Adding to this conceptual knot is the fact that mushrooms aren’t technically plants.)


When asked about this, the servers do their best to work around the terminology: “We don’t use any animal products,” they say.
They could save some words by just saying “vegan,” but there’s a point to this.

The approach is indicative of a burgeoning countermovement to veganism that has adopted its diet, but not its politics of disruption. 


When asked about the difference between the terms, Mark Bomford, a farmer and director of Yale University’s Sustainable Food Program, said that it comes down to a value proposition: “vegan” and “meat-free” make you think that you’re abstaining or giving something up, whereas “plant-based” or “plant-strong” have more forward propulsion. “In terms of marketing communication, it’s about winning, not about losing,” he said.

Perhaps the key to Wildseed’s success is the fact that “vegan” and “vegetarian” can do double duty to describe both a product and a personal identity, whereas the comparatively more apolitical “plant-based” cannot. Its voice of persuasion is intentionally dulcet-toned, enticing like that of a siren.

As a descriptivist, this language in flux is confusing, exciting, and enticing. People, restaurants, and companies are still navigating these terms daily, and many are reaching new conclusions about how they want to phrase and approach the topic of veganism. Luckily, it all serves a greater purpose: more delicious food.

‘The First Thing That Ever Sold Online Was Pizza’

Jay Hoffman writing for the History of the Web:

If you happened to live in Santa Cruz in 1994 you could sit down at your computer, open up your favorite browser, and then go ahead and order a pizza online.

You could do all of this on PizzaNet, owned and operated by Pizza Hut. PizzaNet was an experiment that launched in the early 90’s, a way for Pizza Hut to test the waters and see if this World Wide Web thing had a real shot at a future. It was proposed by a particularly ambitious Pizza Hut owner in Santa Cruz, and developed by a few folks at a development shop known as Santa Cruz Operation (SCO).

This being something of a trial run, the site itself was kept pretty basic. Yet it bursted with possibility. Any web user could go online, visit, fill out a form that included their pizza choice, address, and phone number and just like that, get a pizza delivered straight to their door. The web may not have been exactly designed for this purpose, but that didn’t stop it from being pretty incredible.

The minimalism of old websites is beautiful. I hope they bring this back when Pizza Hut expands their first (!) vegan trial in the USA.