You’re Just Using Us for Our Burgers

Hi, meat-eaters!

We need to talk. I’ll just cut to the chase because I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.

As a vegan, I think I can speak for all of us when I say we’re beginning to feel a little used. We’ve been trying to get your attention for years and now, all of the sudden, captured it with our burgers, but your interest in us is so damn specific.

Don’t get me wrong: We are delighted to the point of being cartoonishly overjoyed that you like us now, or at least our reformulated veggie burgers. You may remember that we tried to hook you on our virtuous veggie-and-bean mash patties for years but somehow, you weren’t having it. You either made fun of them or they were invisible to you. I get it. Those 1.0 burgers were “Good Sandy” from Grease and you weren’t interested.

These early burgers weren’t a good time. They were a little too saintly. They fell into the grill grates. They were a little too dry or they were way too mushy. Some could best be described as “beany.” They weren’t fashionable or cool. Granted, as soon as food scientists cracked the code for making plant burgers taste much meatier, some of you all had to be concerned about ingredients suddenly and all “But are they healthy???” about it — just like people probably clutched their pearls around “Bad Sandy” once she made her transformation — and, honestly, it’s super-duper annoying because we tried for 40 years or so to get your attention to no avail with our pious patties but I will leave it alone. You didn’t want Good Sandy; you wanted Bad Sandy all along. No shame, it’s just a fact.

Our new burgers have taken off to the point where investors in big food companies are getting mighty prickly if the brands they’ve invested in don’t have a plan for competing in the plant-based protein market. Who can blame them? Adding plant-based protein to a company’s portfolio is a smart choice and we know it’s not just herbivores eating them. It’s you guys! Here’s the rub, though: We can’t help but notice that while the number of people dipping their toes into the wild world of meat replacements is at a record high, credible sources and surveys say that the number of vegans has not really budged much, remaining stubbornly stagnant at between 1–2 percent of the U.S. population. It might seem like there are more vegans because we’re a loud, restless and passionate people (part of why we annoy you, right?) but why has this dabbling in pea protein not resulted in more of us?

This all leads me to ask, are you just using us for our burgers?

You don’t want to be seen with our food in certain social settings; you’ll eat our burgers, yes, because they don’t look vegan and they’re suddenly kind of cool but otherwise, you really don’t want to fraternize with our food in professional settings or with people you’re trying to impress. You don’t even want to say our name. Don’t think we haven’t noticed.

We know you love our burgers but we need more from this relationship. We’re ready to take things to the next level. We’re tired of this being a one-sided, clandestine thing between us, a drunken hook-up. In other words, we need more of a commitment.

Don’t be nervous. We can’t and don’t want to stop you from eating our burgers. No one is trying to push you away. We’re not trying to be demanding or put pressure you but, come on, we’ve been at this for a while and you need to level up. I mean, we know you’re still seeing other proteins most of the time. We’re not stupid.

See, in addition to the cows you’re not eating when you eat our burgers, there’s this thing called climate change and we kind of need for you to move beyond your comfort zone and make more of a commitment to us beyond what you’re doing. The clock is seriously ticking. You all like Greta Thunberg, right? Everyone likes her except for terrible people. Her interviews and speeches are inspiring. Memes with her honest, unblinking eyes cut right through you. You know she’s more than just an impressive teen, right? She went way beyond our burgers all the way to full-on vegan. Her future and the future of everyone is kind of dependent on you moving beyond veggie burgers. I mean, it’s a great start but we think you can do so much more than that. We could be so great together.

So this is all to say that we need more of a commitment from you. Prove to us that you’re not just using us for our burgers. I mean, we’re not going anywhere regardless but come on. Step up to the plate. Show us that really you care. It’s time to start growing our numbers and settle down together.

We are here for you. Are you here for us? We’re ready whenever you are.


The Vegans

Marla Rose writes at and

Marla Rose is a Chicago-area writer and co-founder of and

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