This evening, I stayed back in the city after work to attend a presentation about slow pyrolysis technology (more in another post). It was very informative, and before hand I had a chat with a guy called Hamish from Yarra Energy Foundation, who is of the same opinion on many topics as I am.
So, after the presentation and another quick chat, I headed off to the tram stop, then rode the tram to the regional rail station. It was about 8pm by this time and I could have eaten a low flying duck, but as ducks were scarce I opted for the only food outlet open within walking distance of the train station, that being Hungry Jacks or better known as Burger King. I hate fast food at the best of times, with their feed lot beef, CAFO chicken and orangutan killing palm oil derived burgers, so I chose what I thought was going to be a safe option. Without looking at the menu board, I ordered a veggie burger as it was one of my two weekly veggie days, and thinking that if I was going to eat crap, at least nothing had been killed to satisfy my hunger.
Anyway, as I was munching into my presumed guilt free burger, I happened to look up at the menu board above the counter, and in fine print read the words “*includes calf rennet” just under the veggie burger item as if it was a feature of this meal. Now the majority of people I know have no idea what rennet is, or for that matter what a calf is! After all, most school children in urban environments think that milk comes from a carton. As good cheese makers know, calf rennet is used in cheese manufacturing to coagulate the milk into curds and whey, however there is a perfectly acceptable substitute in the form of vegetable rennet, which I use in all of my cheeses.
To my surprise, this veggie burger is actually sold as under the beef classics menu, which makes sense seeing that after a bit of research it contains the following: Contains Wheat (gluten), Sesame Seeds, Soy, Egg, Milk & Milk Products. Cheese and Veggie Patty both contain Animal Rennet.
So to address my concerns I talked to the manager of the store who promptly told me that I should have asked for the burger without cheese! To which I told him that I was never offered a cheeseless option, and that I was a vegetarian (a white lie), to which he shrugged his shoulders and walked off and mumbled that he had never had a complaint before about it. I didn’t know it at the time, and neither did the manager, but the patty has cheese in it as well! What crap service for crap food. Veggie burger my arse! Hungry Jacks have joined my boycott list. They join McDonalds, Red Rooster, KFC, Coca-Cola, and Nando’s Chicken.
Maybe if the warning was not in the smallest of texts, I would have not ordered the burger, however as I was halfway through it, and not a strict vegetarian, and was very hungry, I removed the remaining cheese and ate the remaining burger, angry and disappointed that they would continue to get away with the deception.
I wonder how many vegetarians have chocked on their pretend veggie burger halfway through their meal?
I suppose the Romans said it best. Caveat emptor
Its a minefield. I used to be vegetarian when we lived in the UK ( even before BSE) but discovered that alot of things that you buy in the supermarkets contain animal products if you read the very very fine print. It’s actually the reason I stopped being a vego, it was just too bloody hard to do it properly.
The biggest nightmare were inncent things like biscuits – I began to actually smell the animal fat in biscuits like HobNobs and even to this day can’t eat that kind of thing. Although I can woof down a steak every so often.
crap!! I’m guilty as charged. As a rule we don’t touch the fast food crap but sometimes I have had one of their ‘vege burgers’ while away. Not any more.
By the way, I got rid of the drier, thanks for the nudge.
Rob Tes says
Gav – did you know that the Veggie burger also has the most fat in it – from memory its more than the Whopper, but less than the Quarter Pounder and Aussie Burger that top their list. I hope my memory serves me right and this is fact…
Rob Tes says
I think I was wrong..
That said, there is still a veggie burger available that is different to the Veggie Baguette cos I recall looking it up in Fats and Figures years ago and ridiculing my wife on how bad it was….
Mickle in NZ says
I learnt a few years back that few are aware that cheese needs a “separating ingredient” let alone know about rennet and what it is traditionally made from. I’m not a vegetarian but am always careful to use cheese made using a vegetable enzyme instead of rennet when I cook “veggie” food to share with others.
Thank you for alerting folks to the presence of rennet in places it should not be!
Sending care and huggles to you, Kim, Ben, the doglets and the chookies,
Michelle, across the ditch in Wellington, NZ (with a sound asleep Zebby Cat in the next room)
I saw the sign in the advertising somewhere …. a poor excuse for a vege burger. Regardless, even the meat in the others in these shops is questionable. After watching ‘Food Inc’…. I think I would rather go hungry than eat this food now.
Bl**dy hell! I had no idea that rennet was made from animals. Just checked the cheese in the fridge (Devondale, local parmesan) and they use non-animal rennet. Phew! Thanks Gav – will be on the lookout from now on.
(word verification – “cowdermo” !!!)
Having been a pretty strict vegetarian for over 20 years, I know that trying to eat veggie food in cafes and restaurants is a nightmare as it often includes cheese and most of the staff, including the cooks/chefs don’t have a clue about rennet. But Hungry Jacks also used to cook their veggie burgers in the same oil as the chicken, don’t know now as I boycotted them long ago – but not very veggie at all!
The other little known ‘biggy’ is gelatin. Yoghurt, cream and ice cream in Australia may be Halal but not much is truly veggie.
BTW Gav, as this is my first comment on your site I thought I’d better add that I love what you and your family are doing and that it’s a great blog!
Jo from Sydney
Sarah R says
I suspect that’s actually a violation of the trade practices act if they market something as vegetarian that isn’t, particularly as there’s rennet hidden in something that you might not expect. I suggest you contact the Department of Consumer Affairs (or equivalent) in your state and make a complaint. The other people who have the ability to make a noise about this on your behalf is Choice – they’re pretty good at shaming people into better behaviour.
Gavin, this is actually a very complicated subject. I did a cheese making course recently in which the tutor explained how to extract rennet from a kid’s (baby goat, not child) stomach lining. This is the traditional way of making cheese and I have no problem with it (although many on the course did), except that I don’t have access to a kid’s stomach. However, then she explained that the non-animal rennet is made using genetically modified microbes, this seemed to upset some people even further! Its seems you can’t win with rennet, you either have to kill a very young calf or kid, or eat GM. True vegetable rennet, produced from certain plants, is not commonly used as it is not possible to mass produce. I’m not surprised the HJ manager had no idea of these complexities, you’ll have to remember to take some food from home next time, I can’t stand fast food either!
I did have to once look up I think it was the ‘fries’ or maybe the shortening… I can’t remember now, for a customer (HJ at the time, and I worked hard and did my job, and other people’s jobs, very well and to a high standard, I might add).
Sure enough, animal fats. The ingredients are on every box in the freezer, in letters that aren’t hard to find so any manager worth their 2c (which many aren’t) would know or should know.
That was a while ago but pretty much meant there isn’t really a whole lot that’s ‘ok’ for vegetarians at places like HJ.
The vege burger is not a ‘vegetarian’ burger, rather a burger pattie that has vegies in it – that’s their distinction.
Whether that would be an issue under the new Consumer Law would be interesting to see.
its hard for the buyer to be aware, as they dont always tell you the whole truth anyway. at least it had the rennet listed even if it was in tiny writing I bet in most places they wouldnt of even bothered.
eta so you can’t find on their product page, what the ingredients are in the ~shortening~…
which is important if you’re thinking ‘fries’ couldn’t possibly have animal fat (although they do have palm oil)… or getting a veggie patty fried in it.
… and yes, you’re right, the veggie patty is fried in the same fryer as fries, and chicken products etc, while the beef is done down the broiler (it was last time I was there anyway!).
Their ‘Community’ page is pretty brief and almost contradictory in ideals, considering the palm oil issue.
Darren (Green Change) says
@Sarah R: To be fair, they call it a “Veggie Burger”, not a “Vegetarian Burger”. So as long as the pattie is based on vegetables there wouldn’t be any violation of the trade practices act.
We have also tried not to eat fast food for the past couple of years. When we are out and need to grab a meal we try to find a better alternative than those places you listed but it’s not always easy. Better off making an omelette when you get home!
@Darren I think the new ACL (as opposed to the old TPA) would be interesting in this regard as it’s quite clear now, or should be, what the rights and obligations of consumers/providers are.
“If the overall impression left by an advertisement, promotion, quotation, statement or other representation made by a business creates a misleading impression in your mind—such as to the price, value or the quality of any goods and services—then the conduct is likely to breach the law.” (ACCC info page).
That there ~is~ the line about ‘contains calf rennet’ on the menu board would impact on the outcome.
Kirsty @ Bowerbird Blue says
eww, it’s all so evil and yuck. You feel dirty after visiting these places but sometimes options are thin on the ground. Just shows how we should be better organised, and pack some sandwiches. I like sushi if we’re out – and so do the kids – and they’re popping up all over the place. Please don’t tell me bad things about sushi.
Gav I know this is a serious topic and I do concur with all that has been said on the topic … However – thanks for a great laugh. I do like your descriptors.
Kathryn Pati says
Burger King in every other country uses a vegetarian patty for the burger, not a patty with cheese that’s not vegetarian friendly (like Hungry Jacks here uses). And yes I’ve known of this problem for a long time, makes eating out on the main street near where I live extremely difficult- c’mon Lord of the Fries, open up somewhere near Greenvale!!!