When menuing poultry dishes, do you ever think about what was on the menu for that chicken or turkey? If “we are what we eat,” it’s vital that your poultry had a balanced, protein-rich diet which kept them healthy without antibiotics.
The benefit is no secret to chefs, 65% of whom say 100% vegetarian-fed chicken has a positive impact on taste.1 Consumers agree, with 67% saying vegetarian-fed poultry is healthier.2 Here’s what you need to know about this differentiator that will immediately elevate your menu.
What Is Veggie-Fed Poultry?
The most crucial attribute of vegetarian chicken or turkey feed is that it doesn’t contain animal by-products of any kind, which more than half of consumers consider important.3
Examples of animal by-products commonly found in conventional feed are poultry meal, bone meal, feather meal and animal lard, just to name a few. “When consumers learn about the ‘mystery ingredients’ that are in traditional feed, it can create a visceral reaction,” says Doug Wickman, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for Perdue. “Operators prefer vegetarian feed because it resonates with consumers who don’t want animals being fed junk and like the idea of cleaner feed for chicken and turkey.”
Some make light of Perdue’s USDA Process Verified all-vegetarian diet, saying “You do know chickens aren’t vegetarians, right?” True…in fact, they are omnivores. They will eat almost anything, a fact some poultry companies take advantage of when it comes to the protein and essential fat in their chickens’ diet.
Mike Buononato, chef and Senior Vice President for Creative Food Solutions, notes that it’s not like the animal is eating a ribeye steak. “Instead, often the feed includes low-cost animal by-products, such as rendered bits leftover from processing – essentially everything else they can't sell." In addition to animal by-products, other non-nutritious ingredients potentially in feed include bakery products, antibiotics and even fats skimmed off processing plant wastewater or recycled from used restaurant grease.
Perdue’s all-vegetarian fed birds eat a diet of corn, barley, wheat and soybeans, along with vitamins, minerals and probiotics intended to improve the animal’s health. Perdue feed never contains antibiotics.
Spreading the Word
Restaurant operators need to highlight a claim as important as “all-veggie-fed,” as most consumers might not even realize they should proactively ask what a chicken is fed. That’s why the best option is to take it upon yourself to be loud and proud about your poultry’s clean attributes.
The most effective way to communicate all-veggie-fed attributes is to include it in the menu description and on your website, suggests Wickman, citing chains like Chipotle and Panera who do an excellent job of emphasizing their ingredients’ clean attributes. For example, Chipotle describes its chicken as being raised on a “100% vegetarian diet with no antibiotics.”
“It’s important to be transparent and show patrons your commitment to quality ingredients to build brand advocacy and positive energy for your operation,” Wickman says.
With many consumers affected by information overload, it’s best to be concise, says Buononato. “Narrow it down to quick bites of content, but keep the messages consistent. Sooner or later, consumers who see the phrase ‘all-veggie-fed’ will start to wonder what other poultry are eating, and they’re unlikely to welcome the answer.”
“Clean eating” is increasingly a way of life for many consumers, with nearly 70% saying they were more likely to purchase chicken with clean attributes at restaurants.4 Learn more about incorporating all-vegetarian fed poultry into your menu.
- “Premium Chicken & Turkey, Chef and Culinary Trained Management Attitudes,” Technomic, July 2018
- “Center of the Plate: Poultry Consumer Trend-Report,” Technomic, 2017
- Fresh Chicken Package Evaluator, January 2017
- “Center of the Plate: Poultry Consumer Trend-Report,” Technomic, 2019