Fast food that’s sustainable? Maybe so, maybe no.

Fast food that's sustainable? Maybe so, maybe no.

A fast food chain in the Pacific Northwest is skipping the made-in-China plastic toys in favor of seed packets. Does that make them healthy and sustainable?

Burgerville, which has locations in Oregon and Washington state, doesn’t throw a crappy plastic toy into its kids meals. Instead, kids go home with a pack of local seeds that they can plant! What a cool way to help connect kids with food! I just wish that those seeds were better representations of the food they served in their restaurants.

Before I get into the issues I had with Burgerville’s menu, I wanted to praise them where praise is due. This is a fast food company that’s committed to their staff. They offer management programs, tuition reimbursement, and childcare help to workers. They gave hourly employees who worked 25 or more hours per week access to affordable healthcare long before the Affordable Care Act.

The company composts its food waste, which is basically unheard of at most fast food chains.

Related: Can fast food be fair food?, Harvesting Justice: People’s Grocery in Oakland, CA

Burgerville says that it’s committed to sourcing local, antibiotic-free meat and dairy options. That’s absolutely a step in the right direction, but I have some issues equating that with sustainability.

If you’re a regular reader here you know that meat production is pretty unsustainable, even when it comes from smaller farms. I was bummed to see that the kid’s menu is heavy on the animal products. They also offer plenty of Coca Cola products for kiddos, which I wasn’t crazy about.

The regular menu includes a vegan veggie burger on a dairy- and egg-free bun (pdf), but they don’t offer a kid-sized version of their vegan veggie burger. I called their customer care line, and the representative there said you can’t sub a veggie burger on the kid’s menu. He suggested that I order a regular veggie burger and cut it in half. Hmm.

You might chalk this up to hippie vegan nonsense, but I have a hard time seeing a menu that’s mainly made up of meat and dairy products as a sustainable one. Of course, I’d love to see a totally vegan menu, but I know that isn’t the world we live in. I know that a fast food chain even offering one vegan menu item is pretty darn awesome.

Burgerville is off to a good start with the few veggie options they do offer.Β  Increasing the plant-based options to represent a larger portion of their menu would be a further step in the right direction from a sustainability standpoint.

If you’re sick of factory farming and the crappy plastic toys that come with most fast food kid’s meals, it sounds like Burgerville is a good option for you. They certainly do a better job at sourcing their ingredients than most other fast food chains.

For vegetarian, vegan, or dairy-free kids, this fast food chain isn’t quite there yet. Yet!Β Burgerville definitely strikes me as a chain that listens to the people in its community. Maybe if Pacific-Northwest parents start requesting a kid-sized veggie burger or more plant-based menu items, they would consider those menu changes.

Is there a Burgerville in your area? What do you think of their adult and kids menus?

photo credit: star5112 via photopin cc

One comment
  1. rhondawinter

    I have eaten at two different Burgervilles in western Washington. They really do seem to try to use locally sourced products and seasonal produce, but their meat tasted rubbery and gross, and the buns were weak, bland and unsubstantial. I rarely eat burgers, and never fast food, so I can’t really compare it to what other chains are serving, but locals had said that Burgerville was the best quality in the region for chain store fast food, so I tried it. I was not impressed with anything about their burgers, although, I did have a seasonal blackberry shake, which was indeed delicious, but not at all healthy.

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