Combine one of the most effective models of animal activism ― restaurant outreach ― with the ubiquity of mock meats such as veggie hot dogs, throw in a stadium full of hungry baseball fans, and you’ve got one of the most successful campaigns going.
Prior to 2000, there was not a single Major League Baseball park in the U.S. selling veggie dogs. Today, there are 15 and counting, thanks to Johanna McCloy, who has been introducing meat-free hot dogs and other vegetarian fare in MLB stadiums for eight years with her California-based organization Soy Happy.
Hot dogs once gave new meaning to “mock meat” as one of the most ridiculed meat analogs, perhaps owing to the hot dog’s place in popular culture ― and the debatable taste of early veggie versions. Flavor and texture have improved, however, and now sports fans can enjoy the quintessential concession food without the cruelty and cholesterol.
“We’ve been instrumental in opening the door to veggie dogs and other vegetarian fare in
ballparks, one, two, three or four at a time, every year since we began,” says Johanna (pronounced “yo-hawna”), who was working as an actress when she started Soy Happy ― she says her claim to fame is guest starring on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Ensign Calloway (“I had the rare pleasure of being one of only two characters in seven seasons to make out with Worf”).
Johanna sets up introductions between concession managers and potential food suppliers and suggests which menu items would work for each particular park. “Then I connect the dots to initiate sample deliveries,” she explains. Johanna says baseball fans are critical to Soy Happy’s success. “Without their feedback, ballparks would never know what their customers want,” she says, adding that the same is true for any food establishment, so consumers must tell businesses if they want mock meats.
“Soy Happy’s particular approach may also have something to do with it, as we put a particular focus on the happy and encourage consumers to come from a place of positivity and appreciation ― offering options with a smile and thanking concession managers for their consideration.”
Johanna also credits an increase in soy-meat sales, a focus on healthier school menus, and the nation’s expanding waistline as instrumental in making faux meats more readily accepted among the sports crowd.
“Now ballparks are also offering vegetarian chili, veggie burgers and much, much more!”
For more details, visit http://www.soyhappy.org.