Vegan butchers are delivering plant-based meat alternatives to local communities across the world! Learn more about this growing movement.
To many, vegan butchers may seem like an oxymoron: by definition, a butcher is a person who cuts up and sells meat. The term, which is derived from the Old French bochier, or goat-slaughterer, brings to mind an image of raw meat being packaged in brown paper, or perhaps a row of ham hocks hanging behind a deli counter—no plants, tempeh, or tofu in sight! However, vegan butchers are better known as “plant-based butchers,” because instead of serving meat products they create earth-friendly, meatless meats! These products can be anything from the more standard faux hot dogs and hamburgers to the more unusual meatless ribeye steaks and fried chicken. Many vegan butchers are now offering charcuterie “meats” and a wide range of hard and soft plant-based cheeses to keep up with today’s culinary trends.
With millions of individuals following plant-based diets today, it’s no wonder that these businesses are so popular. The Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger, popular hamburger alternatives, were only a stepping-stone for some of the creations these vegan butchers have dreamed up. The delicious products these vegan butchers offer up are a far cry from the earliest meat alternatives—the first was a peanut-based product called “Nuttose,” invented in 1896 by John Harvey Kellogg, who was also known for creating cornflakes. In 1981, the first vegetarian burger—the Gardenburger—was created, and in 2013 the first lab-grown burger was developed in the Netherlands. Today, there are countless veggie-burger options available, with ingredients ranging from black beans to quinoa, wheat protein, lentils, and soy protein.
The first vegan butcher shop in the United States, called The Herbivorous Butcher, opened in January 2016. The founders drew on Guamanian cuisine in creating their meatless meat products, incorporating a range of flavors, spices, and textures into their recipes. Their Instagram page features meat alternatives of all kinds: flank steak served with fries, hickory bacon, and brie. Another shop, the Very Good Butchers, sells “butcher boxes,” which can be used for meatless charcuterie boards or other serving trays.
Vegan butchers are growing in popularity in Europe, too. The U.K.’s first vegan butcher shop opened in November 2020 and currently sells plant-based deli products, from meatless pastrami to wheat protein seitan. The Meatless Meat Shop, located in Poland, offers gyros, kebabs, pepperoni, and sausage, among other products. Nearly 3 million Polish residents are vegan or considering going vegan, and Warsaw is actually considered one of the world’s friendliest cities for vegans. Considering traveling, but worried about having access to vegan or vegetarian-friendly options? Check out my 9 Travel Tips for Plant-Based Eaters.
Many of these “vegan butchers” actually do not see themselves as catering exclusively to vegans or vegetarians, instead encouraging omnivores of all kinds to try their products. Whether it’s for environmental or health reasons, going meatless for even one or two days a week can be extremely beneficial. If you’re curious about introducing these meatless meats into your diet but aren’t sure where to start, many of the vegan butcheries actually have recipes created specifically for their products posted on their sites.
Become your own Vegan Butcher in your kitchen with these top four tips:
1. Try adding vegan meat alternatives to your snack platters for some yummy variety!
2. Fill your sandwich with your own homemade tempeh bacon. Check out my Vegan BLTA recipe above for inspiration.
4. Mix up your own vegan meatballs using beans, grains, vegetables, and herbs.
For other delicious plant-based recipes featuring plant proteins, check out the following:
Written by Kathryn Atkinson, dietetic intern with Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN