Food for Thought on a Meatless Monday…

by Kelly Behr

Macy Acton Pig

Three people in which I have come to know and deeply respect talked to NPR last week about some of their views on a vegan diet, the article was titled “Does Being Vegan Really Help Animals?” They touched on a supply/demand issue, how people in the United States do not need meat to survive and the impact animal production has not only affected our country but others we use fill our meat demands.

Barbara King of NPR posed these questions to Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society, Alka Chandna of PETA and Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary.

“Do you find it personally motivating or inspiring to reflect upon the number of animals who live each year, who otherwise would not, because you are vegan?”

Paul: Eating fewer or no animals doesn’t mean that animals who would’ve been killed will now live; it means that animals who would’ve been bred into existence to suffer on factory farms will now not be brought into the world and exploited in the terrible ways that are customary in the meat industry. It’s a supply and demand issue. Less demand should mean less supply.

Bruce: As Paul notes, by removing our demand, we’re sparing animals suffering that is beyond our worst imaginings. I do find it deeply motivating to realize that I can live my values every time I sit down to eat. St. Paul called on the faithful to pray ceaselessly. I like that every time I sit down to eat, I cast my lot for mercy, and against misery — for compassion, and against cruelty. Every meal becomes a prayer for a kinder and more just world.

Alka: I don’t think so much about the numbers of animals who are spared as much as I think about the misery and suffering that I’m not contributing to as a result of my choices. It was learning about the horrific conditions on factory farms — and thinking about the arbitrary cultural lines that determine which animals are eaten and which are spared — that compelled me to adopt a vegan diet; and I feel some comfort in knowing that my actions are not contributing to, or paying for those systems to carry out, their business. Conversely, if I am accidentally served something that isn’t vegan at a restaurant (and I know the dish is going to be thrown away), I feel like I have contributed to the torment suffered by the animals whose flesh or bodily products were in the dish. For example, if I’m given something that contains an egg, I think that my miscommunication resulted in a hen suffering in a battery cage for 34 hours (and all of the ancillary suffering inherent in the discarding of the male chicks, the eventual slaughter, and so on). It’s [weighing] the time that an animal suffered on a factory farm for that item to come into existence, balanced against the few minutes of enjoyment I might derive from eating that item.

“What is your response to a person who points out that on a global scale, veganism simply isn’t practical because people (including people suffering in poverty) must eat meat to survive?”

Paul: That may or may not be true, but we can only control ourselves. Millions of Americans are choosing to eat less meat today for a variety of reasons: to look and feel better, to prevent animal abuse, to protect the planet, and more. It need not be an all-or-nothing endeavor. Whether people are embracing Meatless Mondays, doing Mark Bittman’s “Vegan Before 6:00″ plan, or are doing, as Ellen DeGeneres does (vegan before 6 p.m. and after 6 p.m.!), we’re starting to embrace a saner, more humane and healthier diet.

Bruce: It is certainly not the case that anyone in the United States needs to eat meat in order to survive; I ran a homeless shelter and soup kitchen in inner city Washington, D.C., for six years, and I can say from personal experience that our nation’s poor are suffering from bad food, not lack of food. A move toward whole grains and legumes, in place of meat, would be healthier for them (and cheaper), just like it would be healthier for the affluent. On a global scale, I agree with the World Watch Institutethat diverting crops to animal feed is causing starvation. This is actually why I adopted a vegan diet in 1987, to combat the vast inefficiency of cycling crops through animals, which drives up the price of those crops and leads to starvation. I discuss that issuehere.

Alka: I would point out to that person that my parents raised me and my three siblings as lacto-vegetarians [A vegetarian who eats dairy products]. Through my younger years, my father was a graduate student and my mother worked as a librarian in Canada. But on their rather modest income, they were able to healthfully feed their four young children, preparing meals based on the peasant staples of rice and lentils. My parents didn’t buy junk food or convenience foods, so even with their limited funds, they could purchase plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. My experience is a product of my cultural heritage, of course, but if we consider the global population, I think it tends to be the case that the poorer populations, if they eat, are eating grains and legumes — and not meat or other animal products.

If we look at the volume of resources that are expended to produce meat, dairy and eggs, it seems clear that animal products are, in an increasingly crowded world, the fare of the wealthy. And, we can look to some stark examples — the razing of rain forests in Brazil to raise grain for factory farmed chickens in the U.S., and the exporting of grains from Ethiopia during the height of the Ethiopian famine to factory farmers in Europe, for instance — to recognize that reliance on animal-derived foods contributes to inequality.

Read the full article here, from

Here at Native Foods we strive to make delicious 100% plant-based food that makes eating more meatless meals as easy as pie….like our Oatmeal Creme Pie!

Food & Shoes

By Kelly Behr

Native Foods had an opportunity to be part of a great event at Amour Shoes, an all vegan shoe and accessories store located by our River Forest location.


Students were treated to Native Foods eats and were able to hear our Pals at Mercy For Animals speak about living a cruelty free life! It was like the full vegan circle. Learning about the harmful effects of factory farming to animals and the environment and then treated to both vegan food and fashion, showing these kids how easy it is to incorporate vegan options into their everyday life…great tasting and looking ones!


It is so awesome to expose a whole group of students to plant based cuisine who may have never eaten vegan food before. Thank you Amour Shoes for inviting us to participate!


V-Lish is Delish

Farm Sanctuary offers a great resource for even more delicious plant-based meals! Try this Mushroom Burger and many more.


Native Foods uses this image courtesy of

When you choose to go meat-free for lunch, you will soon discover the incredible variety of meat-free foods out there, from standbys like stir-fry to fun new favorites like Southwest Black Bean and Corn Mini Burgers (yes, we have a recipe for that!). Plus, you are taking an important step toward a more vibrant you and a better world for farm animals. Try one of these recipes for lunch today! Click here for the entire recipe!

In the Spotlight: Kelly O’Neil

By Kelly Behr

Native Foods Cafe

If you read our newsletters that we have in the stores you are used to seeing someone featured as our, "In the Spotlight" special guest. This month we were very excited to feature Kelly O'Neil. She is the Education and Outreach Coordinator for Farm Sanctuary. Farm Sanctuary has become very near and dear to Native Foods. We have recently entered into a partnership with them that will allow us to work together on many fun and exciting things coming up. 

I was able to visit the Farm Sanctuary in Acton, CA and meet Kelly and all the awesome animals that call the sanctuary their home. There was a baby cow who we heard mooing when we were walking away and realized he had been following us all the way down to the hill and wanted to stay with us wherever we went. 


I learned about all their unique personality traits and how cool it is to hold a rooster, did you know they love belly rubs too? Well they do! 



Here is Kelly holding Li Mu Bai a Silkie rooster who loves laying on his back for a good belly rub!


Kelly O’Neil


Position with Farm Sanctuary:

Education and Outreach Coordinator


How did you get involved with Farm Sanctuary? 

I previously worked at an animal shelter and after becoming vegan I realized that there was a much bigger problem than just dogs and cats being mistreated and killed needlessly. By becoming vegan my compassion extended to all living beings especially those used in the food industry. After learning that over 9 billion farm animals are killed for human consumption each year in the United States alone I knew I wanted to do more to help spread the message that you do not need to consume animal products in order to live a happy, healthy life.


Favorite part of your job? 

Educating the public about the horrors of modern animal agriculture and helping people make changes in how they view and treat farm animals. The United States is a nation of animal lovers, and a lot of people don’t want to think about what happens to farm animals, but I believe knowledge is power and that is why I work to expose and end the abuses of factory farming through education and advocacy.


It might be like picking a favorite child, but do you have some favorites at the sanctuary? 

I have quite a few but I would have to say that I was most surprised by how intelligent and social chickens are. They have such distinct personalities but unfortunately, chickens are among the most abused of farm animals in the United States, with over 8 billion being killed for human consumption each year. That’s 279 every second! Not only are chickens exploited for their meat, but for their eggs as well. Li Mu Bai is a Silkie rooster that I am particularly fond of at Farm Sanctuary’s Los Angeles area shelter. You can cuddle and kiss him just like you would your dog or cat and he will fall asleep in your arms as you pet his feathers. He’s such a love!


What is the one message Farm Sanctuary really wants to make sure they portray? 

That farm animals are intelligent, emotionally complex individuals, just like the dogs and cats we share our lives with, and they deserve the same respect and consideration.


Does Farm Sanctuary educate on eating a vegan diet? 

Yes, Farm Sanctuary’s Los Angeles area shelter gives 1-hour guided tours to the public on Sundays at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. On these tours we introduce guests to farm animals that have been rescued from situations of cruelty and neglect, teach them about the conditions animals face on factory farms and talk about compassionate vegan living. At Farm Sanctuary we support any movement in the direction of plant-based eating. Every time someone chooses a plant-based meal instead of one containing animal products, they’re making a difference.


Do you have any advice for people new to trying a vegan diet?

Try eating vegan just one meal a week or for a whole day, and see how you feel. It’s a lot easier than people think and even little changes make a big difference. And fortunately now there are plant-based alternatives for nearly every type of meat, dairy and egg product on the market that are delicious and healthier for you and our environment, too! Farm Sanctuary has a great resource called V-lish ( that has recipes, videos and tips that can help you plan your plant-based shopping trip, cook delicious meat-free meals and experience vegan dining made simple.


What is your favorite menu item at Native Foods

It’s so hard to pick just one knowing that everything on the menu is plant-based and cruelty-free! The Yo Amigo Taco Salad is probably my favorite because it is healthy, filling and delicious.


What is the one food you couldn't live without? 

Definitely dark, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. They are full of protein and calcium and perfect for salads, stir-fry’s, smoothies, and juicing!


Please stay tuned for more exciting events Native Foods will be doing with Farm Sanctuary. Our first event will be Monday, July 28th. We are having a giveback day for Farm Sanctuary where a portion of sales from all Native Foods will go back to Farm Sanctaury and a FREE DESSERT for YOU with the purchase of an entree, side & Native Drink. 



Luscious (vegan) Lashes!

By Kelly Behr 


Mascara is one of the most used cosmetic products on the market. I know people who leave the house without so much as running a brush through their hair, but wouldn't dare leave the hosue without a few swipes of mascara on their lashes. (I may or may not be referring to myself). Anyway… with all the mascara particulars…color…brush type…thickness….vegan? The last one might not be on everyone's mascara list, but it is on mine. And if it is on yours then you appreciate a good vegan mascara when you find one. 


I found one while traveling in Portland. It is by Pacifica. I love my Pacifica coconut water infused face wash, so I was confident I would like their mascara as well. I was right! And the best part is it is available at Target, so for me it is like the unicorn of mascaras! And why yes, that is vegetable glycerin in the ingredients! 






Why Cows are Awesome!

By Kelly Behr 

Native Foods Cafe

In preparation in doing some rad things with Farm Sanctuary I was able to take a tour of the location in Acton, CA, about an hour outside of LA. They gave me a private tour which means tons of one on one time with the animals, which for me, was the best day ever! 

My first and favorite group of animals was the cows. I love cows for many reasons. They are large, magnificent animals that are the so gentle and affectionate. I met the group of steers who have made farm sanctuary their beloved home, free from the threat of becoming someone's dinner.  


I bonded with a cow named William and had a baby steer follow me all the way down the hill when we were leaving…. mooing at us, it was the sweetest thing ever. 


What makes cows so cool? Here are some other fun facts: 

  1. Cows are social animals, and they naturally form large herds. And like people, they will make friends and bond to some herd members, while avoiding others
  2. Cows can hear lower and higher frequencies better than humans.
  3. An average dairy cow weighs about 1,200 pounds.
  4. The average cow chews at least 50 times per minute.
  5. The typical cow stands up and sits down about 14 times a day.
  6. An average cow has more than 40,000 jaw movements in a day.
  7. Cows actually do not bite grass; instead they curl their tongue around it.
  8. Cows have almost total 360-degree panoramic vision.
  9. Cows have a single stomach, but four different digestive compartments.
  10. Cows are pregnant for 9 months just like people
  11. Cows spend 8 hours per day eating, 8 hours chewing her cud (regurgitated, partially digested food), and 8 hours sleeping
  12. You can lead a cow upstairs, but not downstairs. Cows knees can’t bend properly to walk downstairs.
  13. Cows can’t vomit


I think if my living conditions allowed I would have a pet cow, but for now my cat will remain an only child in my Chicago apartment. And in case you were not convinced that cows are one of the coolest creatures around….maybe buzz feed can help!




Running on Fumes: Reasons not to watch the Kentucky Derby this weekend


By Sammy Caiola

 Native Foods Cafe

The annual Kentucky Derby thoroughbred race is sometimes referred to as “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” for its approximate duration and level of energy. But for the horses on the roster, the two minutes on the track are just a fraction of the hours, months and sometimes years of pain endured in preparation for the brutal race.


This Saturday marks the 140th anniversary of the Kentucky Derby, which takes place each year at the Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. Novelized by wide-brimmed sun hats and trackside mint juleps, the Derby has long been considered a staple of the southern bourgeois. But Derby viewers, be they gamblers or casual attendees, are not simply watching a race- they’re enabling animal cruelty to a criminal degree.


Native Foods Café uses this photo courtesy of


Just last month, champion racehorse trainer Steve Asmussen came under fire from media and gaming officials for rule and drug violations and severe mistreatment of his horses. Officials immediately removed Asmussen’s name from the Hall of Fame ballot and are currently conducting an investigation into allegations made by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).


This is immediately following the release of PETA's 9- 1/2 minute documentary, "Horse Racing Exposed: Drugs and Death", which they published after a multi-month investigation of Asmussen's training methods at Churchill Downs and in Saratoga. A PETA activist working as a training assistant brought a hidden camera into the stables and recorded Asmussen verbally and physically abusing the horses, including his star horse and derby contender Tapiture, who was "constantly getting injections of all kinds," said the activist.


Studies estimate that three thoroughbreds die every day in North America as a result of overtraining, performance enhancing drugs, neglected injuries or just plain slaughters. Horse's legs and ankles are not designed to support their 1,000 pound bodies at high speeds for long durations, so snapped tendons and hairline fractures are common. Injuries of this kind often go undetected until the horse shows a decline in performance, at which point the damage can be irreparable or very expensive to repair. Rather than pay the price, many trainers find a way to mask the injuries with drugs or, in the worst cases, dispose of decommissioned racers.


Horses have become a priced commodity in American culture, and once they lose their ability to turn a profit, they lose their right to live. And in order to keep them profitable trainers resort to unregulated drugs such as Lasix, which controls bleeding in the lungs, cortiscosteroids for pain and inflammation and, in one case, ecstasy. As John Scheinman of The Washington Post wrote in 2003, “Finding an American racehorse trained on the traditional hay, oats, and water probably would be impossible,”


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Fortunately, steps are being taken. In a recent Interview with Newsday, PETA vice president Kathy Guillermo urged the need for more stringent drug regulations and improved course conditions. PETA is currently asking the Jockey Club to adopt a fee structure that would provide pillow money to help retire horses in pastures rather than slaughter them.

In reality, ending horse racing is not a possibility due to the thriving culture surrounding the race, particularly in the south. All we can do for now is discourage friends and family from patronizing such a culture, and support organizations like PETA who are attempting to give voice to the voiceless.


Kitten Season Continues!

By Lauren Neuschel


It’s mid-April now and you know what that means…Kitten season is upon us. Newborn kittens everywhere! While a million tiny kittens, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, sounds kinda, sorta the cutest thing EVER (see below for proof), too many homeless and sheltered kittens is sad and terribly problematic.



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Come springtime shelters and rescue groups get flooded with homeless litters. That’s why Chicago-area’s Red Door, a no-kill shelter for cats, dogs and rabbits, has its “Spring-to-Life Rescue Raffle” to help save homeless animals from suffering. This group provides critical care, shelter and adoption services for animals like, Kirby, Maisy, and Johnny!

Log on to their website and visit: for more information on how you can enter the raffle (to win cool prizes including a $1,000 Grand Prize) and support this worthwhile cause. 


Red Door[1]

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And if you’re looking to help in other ways, make sure every kitten and cat (every animal for that matter) has a home by spaying and neutering your own pets. Protecting your cat can help so many more!  

In the Spotlight: Mikael Nielsen- Mercy for Animals

By Kelly Behr

Native Foods Cafe


Mercy for Animals is a well respected organization that we love working with. Mercy For Animals is dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies.
MFA works to create a society where all animals are treated with the compassion and respect they so rightfully deserve.They serve as a voice for animals through proactive consumer education initiatives, cruelty investigations, corporate outreach, and legal advocacy.
Mikael is an outreach coordinator and big fan of Native Foods. 
1.) How did you get started?
I was inspired by one of EarthSave Chicago’s Conferences for Conscious Living in 2002. I became involved with the group, coordinating outreach events, conferences, and the Compassion On Wheels (COW) TV van. I started volunteering with MFA in January of 2006 and became one of the organization’s outreach coordinators in the spring of 2008. I was hired on as paid staff in May of 2012. It is a dream job!
3.) What is the main message MFA would like to portray?
 MFA works to create a society where all animals are treated with the compassion and respect they so rightfully deserve. Over 95% of the cruelty to animals in the United States occurs at the hands of the meat, dairy, and egg industries which confine, mutilate, and slaughter over 9 billion land animals each year. Despite the fact that these are the most abused animals in the United States, they actually have the fewest number of advocates. That is why it is so important that we stand up and become a voice for the most defenseless.
4.) How do you inform people about what MFA is doing?
We do undercover investigations into factory farms and slaughterhouses, advertising campaigns, we work with lawmakers and corporations to enact more animal friendly laws and policies, and we do a ton of grassroots outreach all over the United States.
5.) How can people get involved?
Best place to start is by filling out our Get Active! form here ->
6.) What is your favorite Native Foods item?
When I am being “bad” it’s the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger. When I am being “good” it’s the Bangkok Curry Bowl.
7.) How do you spend your free time?
I love hanging with my rescued animals, Oliver the dog and Maeby the cat. I also enjoy yoga and getting in my daily gym time.
8.) Favorite place you traveled?
My youngest sister, Kathrine, lives in Senegal and I have been lucky enough to visit there twice. And, of course, my beautiful home country of Denmark will always hold a special place in my heart.


 We look forward to working more with Mercy for Animals this year, check out their website for more information to stay informed and get involved!