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It's Monday – Do You Know Where Your Meatless Meal Is, Massachusetts?


Monday, June 27, 2011   

BOSTON - Beef. It's what's NOT for dinner at a growing number of restaurants in Massachusetts and around the country, as more establishments work to offer vegetarian options to consumers. A countrywide campaign called "Meatless Mondays" encourages diners to explore plant-based menu options once a week, with the goal of having people reduce their meat consumption by 15 percent.

Even a rapidly-growing franchise called UBurger, which got its start on the Boston University campus, offers meatless menu options, although co-owner Spiro Kouvlis says he's not quite ready to formally endorse Meatless Mondays.

"For health reasons I think it's a great idea. Business-wise? I don't think it'll be our best business day, but it is definitely good for, you know, for health and for the animals."

Started in 2003, the Meatless Monday movement is making inroads. The program's director says a recent research poll they commissioned showed 50 percent of the American public were aware of Meatless Monday and of those, 27 percent said it had influenced their decision to cut back on meat.

Spiro Kouvlis says when the first UBurger opened in Kenmore Square in 2006, the plan was to sell only hamburgers. He says they soon wised up.

"You know, a lot of students here either for religious reasons can't eat beef or just are vegetarians. They can always have that option of getting that veggie patty instead of any meat patties."

Chris Elam, program director of Meatless Mondays, says restaurants, chains and celebrity chefs are embracing the idea, or at the very least adding veggie options.

"We want to be very simple for a restaurant. We encourage restaurants not to take meat off the proverbial table, but just to add veggie options, or even highlight them on Monday to encourage people to think about this idea of cutting back just one day a week."

Erica Meier is executive director of the Washington-based group, Compassion Over Killing, which works to shed light on what it considers cruelty to animals raised for food, while promoting healthy eating.

"It's exposing people to these options, letting them know they're available. They want to make the right choice when they realize that vegetarian foods are better for their health, it's better for animals, and it's better for the environment."

Meier and her group regularly work with restaurant chains to help them build more vegetarian options into their menus. Currently, they're lobbying the Subway chain to offer a meatless deli slice.

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