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Jolinda Hackett

Whole Foods sells real chicken mislabeled as vegan chicken

By May 10, 2013

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All of meat-free internet land is talking about this issue, so I thought I'd weigh in too.

If you haven't already heard, a swath of whole foods stores in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maine sold real chicken labeled as vegan chicken in their prepared food bar for two days this week before anyone noticed an error.

I don't think it needs to be reiterated how obviously not ok this is, but there might be a few things the dozens of news articles are missing. Not to be too Pollyanna-ish, but consider the underlying implications:

1. There's so much fake chicken in the world these days!
2. Lots of omnivores ate fake chicken and didn't even notice, proving that most people really can't taste the difference.
3. The recall is big news because lots of people care about eating vegan.

Good for Whole Foods for coming out and admitting the error, even, it seems contacting the FDA themselves, if less than for the vegan/non-vegan issue, than for the food allergies (what's a vegan got to do to get some respect?). I'm sure it must have been tempting to sweep this under the rug and hope no one noticed, since apparently, no consumers did.

I also can't help but note how this is becoming a big story - it's been covered by everyone from USA Today to FoxNews. Sure, it happened en masse to a large and well-liked corporate brand, but honestly, who among us vegetarian has never once had a restaurant or food server make a mistake which resulted in that gross, chewy, feeling immediately followed by the "uh-oh" knowledge that you've got meat in your mouth? I'm guessing anyone who's been vegetarian longer than a year has had this happen at least once, if not multiple times.

I like Whole Foods - I like knowing that CEO John Mackey is a vegan, and I'll continue to shop there regularly, but of course, given the opportunity, I'll always shop at locally-owned and co-op grocers instead.

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May 10, 2013 at 6:01 pm
(1) John says:

Should it have happened – no. Is it a big deal – no.

May 10, 2013 at 6:20 pm
(2) Diane says:

I cannot believe that no one tasted the difference. There is a bunch difference in the taste and texture in even the “best tasting
” fake chicken. Whole Foods will survive as well as those who ate it.

May 10, 2013 at 7:58 pm
(3) Tracy w says:

There’s a new product out there, and surely you know about it, called beyond meet. The texture is the most like animal protein I have ever chewed though I wasn’t fooled (I can ALWAYS tell the difference) The texture was so close…it gave me a real good mouth chew like the real thing. Possibly no one noticed at whole foods because they may have been exposed to this beyond meat product and trust me, it is so close that if you are not used to eating the real thing you could definitely think you were eating beyond meat not real chicken.

May 10, 2013 at 8:34 pm
(4) katie says:

the chickens did not eat any meat products??
maybe they were vegan chickens,,LOL

May 10, 2013 at 8:39 pm
(5) vegetarian says:

John – I think the point is that it is a big deal – because a lot of people do care – and yet it’s NOT a big deal, in that it happens on a smaller scale hundreds of times a day, perhaps.

May 10, 2013 at 10:54 pm
(6) elena says:

Hi John,
Naturally, you are a carnivoro. How can you opinate on this matter

May 10, 2013 at 10:59 pm
(7) elena says:

Hi Katie,
Do you have any idea about veganism or vegatarianism? Mmmmm

May 11, 2013 at 6:34 am
(8) Gbeans says:

Perhaps it is time vegan and vegetarian textured protein was labelled not using animal protein descriptions!

May 11, 2013 at 8:38 am
(9) dorothy dunn says:

thank you whole foods for being honest . thats why i trust you
not everyone would do what you did.

May 11, 2013 at 10:52 am
(10) vegetarian says:

Indeed – it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the aftermath. Will they maintain everyone’s trust? Will anyone sue? Etc

May 11, 2013 at 10:51 am
(11) vegetarian says:

Right – it used to be more commonly called “mock chicken” or “soy chicken” but everyone seems to have settled on “vegan chicken” now.

May 11, 2013 at 2:03 pm
(12) Jen Wright says:

I can never understand why vegans or vegetarians would want to eat something called chicken, sausage or turkey or cutlet or bacon. Surely the idea is to get away from meat and all to do with it? Why go with fake stuff?

May 11, 2013 at 2:21 pm
(13) Vicky says:

Jen the fake meats are a good transition for those who are going Vegan or Vegitarian who were raised meat eaters. I am personally getting away from the fake meats now as they are all made with soy, wheat, & canola, most packages don’t say organic. I don’t want GMOed foods or systemic pesticides in my food so I don’t want any of the fake meats until they start using organic products

May 11, 2013 at 2:30 pm
(14) vegetarian says:

Jen – Surely the idea is to not kill animals? Yup, that’s about it.

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