Iconic slider brand, White Castle, takes top honors in a new burger restaurant grading system by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Other brands, including McDonald’s, Checkers and Rally’s, not only failed in the eyes of the organization, but also managed to obtain an "F-minus" grade, indicating the absence of "animal-friendly" options and, at least in the case of Checkers and Rally’s, menus that offer virtually no animal product-free offerings. The rankings were announced the week of Sept. 12.
"Checkers and Rally’s menus are a nightmare for animals," reads the entry on PETA's web-based grading list.
"Nearly everything is covered in beef, chili, cheese, or bacon. … McDonald’s has no options for vegan customers, except for a small side salad."
The two chains received additional demerits because "nearly everything is covered in beef chili, cheese, or bacon — and even their French fries have eggs in them," according to a press release from PETA.
A dozen national burger chains were rated "D" or lower on the PETA list for their lack of options for vegans, who typically consume no animal-based products, or vegetarians, who typically do not consume animal meat and, sometimes, byproducts of animal slaughter.
Two other mega-burger chains, Wendy’s and Burger King, managed to pass the test, though they did not excel. Wendy’s was the sole chain on the list to obtain a "B" grade, which it earned for pilot testing a black bean burger in three markets, the PETA website said. Customers can make this burger entirely vegan by ordering it without cheese and sauce.
"We’ll award the chain an "A" grade if the burger becomes available nationwide," PETA said on its website.
Meanwhile, Peta said that Burger King got a "C" for replacing its all-vegan patty for a new veggie burger offering that contains milk and eggs, which strict vegans do not consume.
Americans' increasing interest in adopting a diet that includes more plant-based meals prompted PETA to develop the new letter grade system as a guide for consumers seeking all or mostly plant-based meals.
Winners, losers and why
White Castle and Red Robin both went to the top of the class with PETA because they prominently feature vegetable-based offerings on their menus. White Castle offers a veggie slider on a vegan bun with sweet Thai sauce and Red Robin allows customers to request any of its burgers from "vegan" sources.
Other restaurants on PETA's "smart kids" list include Ben’s Chili bowl, Burger 21 and Johnny Rocket’s, which offers an animal-friendly, Streamliner burger.
Research from the National Restaurant Association indicates that plant-based meals are increasingly important to a restaurant’s success, with vegan entrees coming in among the Top 10 "main dishes" for food service in this year’s NRA "What’s Hot" forecast. Of the professional chefs surveyed by NRA, 76 percent threw their collective weight behind vegan menu offerings.
Many Americans are embracing vegetarianism and veganism due to the growing perception that these diets are not only more humane, but also more sustainable and environmentally friendly in their cultivation and processing.
"Today, diners expect a delicious vegan entree on every menu, and White Castle and Red Robin are leading the charge by offering crowd-pleasing burgers made without harming animals," said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman in the news release about the PETA grading scale.
At times, PETA has been regarded as extreme in its methods of gaining public attention for animal rights issues. The organization has a strong commitment to animal welfare and seeks to inform the public about inhumane practices in the cultivation and slaughter of animals raised for consumption as food and consumer goods.
Increasing public concern about these methods, and growing awareness of a need for more environmentally friendly agricultural practices is prompting a global shift in the way the food service industry conducts business, evident in the growing number of mega-chains that have adopted more animal-friendly practices in their food sourcing and serving.
Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, Shelly Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of Pizzamarketplace.com and QSRweb.com after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.