SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — More restaurant menus are including plant based burgers, vegan steak, and other vegan foods. These are the kinds of foods a growing number of Americans are turning to as they become vegans, and that especially includes millennials. A quarter of millennials now say that they are vegan or vegetarians. Joel Capolongo owns a vegan cafe in Syracuse and has a pretty good idea of why younger people are coming to his cafe.
“In general I think that younger people have more open minds, they’re more progressive in their thinking, and they have better access to information than people my age and even older do” Capolongo said.
However, for older generations like Jerry Closinski, a member of Generation X, veganism just isn’t an option because of the traditions and habits they don’t want to break.
“When I was a kid, if had any type of steak or a different type of chicken, that was our treat,” Closinski said. “I think my upbringing probably has a lot to do with it.”
Capolongo’s cafe serves everything vegan– from soy sausage links for breakfast, to vegan milkshakes for dessert, there are options for every meal or snack of the day. For patrons like Jasmine Millner, it is a vegan delight, part of a trend that is slowly creeping into menus everywhere.
“It took vegans in the beginning doing things like that to get that one option we have on the menu now. The more people do this and the more people ask for these things and create a demand for it the more you’re going to get it in restaurants” Millner said.
Millner went vegan just after her high school graduation a few years ago. As a millennial, she says she thinks many people her age are going vegan because they don’t like what they see happening in the meat and dairy industries these days.
“For somebody that’s like 80 years old, meat and dairy wasn’t as awful as it is right now. So now that everything is so industrial and animals aren’t treated like living beings, it’s increasingly worse” Millner said.
She isn’t alone, allegations of mistreatment of animals being raised for food is very much on the mind of millennials these days, in part because of social media. 20-year-old Joey Colangelo saw a documentary in high school health class that immediately made him try going vegan.
“I guess it put a face to my food in a sense, where I never really thought about what goes on in the background of the food industry” Colangelo said.
It was difficult for Colangelo to go vegan at first, and he says it is not a decision anyone should make lightly. For him and many millennials, wanting to go vegan is one thing, but actually making the switch is another.
“You need to have an actual reason to do it, it’s not just a quick fad or a quick fix me,” Colangelo said. “If you actually want to go vegan for an ethical or environmental reason, there needs to be some type of true interest.”
According to Pew Research Center, more than twice as many millennials are vegan compared to other generations, and that amount keeps growing. And unlike other diets that prove to be nothing more than fads, there are signs that veganism may be here to stay. It’s more a conscious choice, letting animals live, and refusing to support farming methods that harm the environment. In the end, supporters say, veganism is more about ethical eating, than losing a few pounds.