Once January is over, it feels like the months go by in an instant. However brief, February was an exciting month for plant-based news.
“Joker” star Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscars speech talking about exploitation within the dairy industry flooded social media. Fast-food giant KFC trialed realistic plant-based fried chicken in 70 stores. And UK-based chocolatier Cadbury is working on a dairy-free milk chocolate bar. Here are the top news stories from February.
1. Joaquin Phoenix FTW
Joaquin Phoenix had a big month. The longtime vegan actor won the Best Actor award at this year’s Oscars and dedicated his speech to calling out systems of oppression. “I think at times we feel or are made to feel that we champion different causes. But for me, I see commonality,” he said. “I think whether we’re talking about gender inequality, or racism, or queer rights, or indigenous rights, or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice. We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender, or one species has the right to dominate, control, use, and exploit another with impunity.”
The speech reportedly turned “Girls” creator Lena Dunham vegan. Just a few hours after winning the award, Phoenix helped Farm Sanctuary in Acton, California rescue a mother cow and her calf from Manning Beef, a Southern California slaughterhouse.
The actor leveraged the awards season’s spotlight to talk about animal rights, but he’s not done yet. Phoenix is also producing a documentary called “Gunda,” which is about a pig and her three animal companions: two cows and a one-legged chicken.
2. Cadbury’s Vegan Milk Chocolate
UK-based chocolatier Cadbury is working on a vegan version of its signature Dairy Milk chocolate bar. Its parent company, US confectionery giant Mondelēz International, confirmed that it has been working on a dairy-free milk chocolate bar. “We’re always listening to our consumers,” said a Mondelēz spokesperson. “So we can develop and provide people with greater choice.”
They continued, “this includes looking at a plant-based Cadbury Dairy Milk bar.” There are currently no plans for immediate launch.
3. Harrison Ford Ditches Meat and Dairy
Harrison Ford revealed that he no longer eats meat and dairy during an episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
“I eat vegetables and fish, no dairy, no meat. I just decided I was tired of eating meat and I know it’s not really good for the planet, and it’s not really good for me,” he told the eponymous host. He had been on the show to talk about his leading role in the recently-released film, “Call of the Wild.” He also confirmed that he will be starting a new “Indiana Jones” film this spring.
4. Florida Gets a Vegan Drive-Thru
Life – The Vegan Drive Thru opened in Cape Coral, a coastal city in the southwestern region of the state, late last December.
The new restaurant offers vegan versions of fast-food classics. The Snausage Breakfast Sandwich features a housemade plant-based sausage patty, dairy-free cheese, and a tofu egg on a bun. Coconut bacon cheeseburgers, coconut BLTs, and plant-based tuna melts are also on the menu.
5. KFC x Beyond Meat
Fast-food giant KFC trialed vegan fried chicken in more than 70 locations in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Nashville. The expanded test market was a follow-up from a one-day trial that took place in Atlanta last August. Both tests served vegan fried chicken, made exclusively by California-based brand Beyond Meat for KFC. According to a press release, it has the texture of “whole muscle chicken,” right down to pulling apart like the real thing.
6. Nike Makes Shoes Out of Trash
The new “Space Hippie” sneakers by Nike channel a futuristic look, but what the shoes are made from may be what lies ahead for fashion. The uppers are made from flyknit, a yarn developed by Nike, which uses “at least 85%” upcycled plastic water bottles, t-shirts, and yarn scraps. The soles use recycled foam. According to the brand, the Space Hippie also has the lowest carbon footprint of all of the brand’s shoes.
7. Scientists Create Dairy-Identical Vegan Cheese
In the near future, vegan mozzarella sticks may have that coveted stretch that so far only dairy cheese can do. A handful of food tech companies are creating whey and casein, without the cow—not even with cow cells, as is the case with cultured burgers and steaks. Instead, companies including Perfect Day, New Culture, Motif FoodWorks, and the nonprofit Real Vegan Cheese use fermentation to create vegan dairy proteins.
8. France Bans Shredding of Male Chicks
France is banning the controversial act of shredding male chicks alive. The egg industry considers male chicks to be unprofitable byproducts. Shredding them alive using a machine with whirring blades called a macerator is a common practice in many countries. Around seven billion chicks are culled every year.
French Minister of Agriculture Didier Guillaume announced the ban in Paris, stating “From the end of 2021, nothing will be like it was before.”
9. The Dairy Industry Is Collapsing
Big Dairy is struggling. But it’s not just about the fact that fluid milk consumption has been on a steady decline since the mid-1970s. Nor is it all about rapid rise of the plant-based milk market, which now accounts for 13 percent of all US retail milk sales. The dairy industry is tied up with complicated trade wars and overproduction that led to a 1.39 billion pound stockpile of unwanted cheese.
10. Kim Kardashian’s Plant-Based Family
Kim Kardashian and her kids are following a mostly plant-based diet. The “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” star has been vocal about how cutting meat out of her diet has helped with her psoriasis. She’s never claimed to be completely plant-based (“I try to eat as plant-based as possible,” she wrote on her sister Kourtney’s Poosh website.), but her refrigerator is stocked with vegan ingredients. In a Twitter Q&A with her followers earlier this month, Kardashian revealed that her kids are also eating mostly plant-based, except for Stormy, a pescetarian.
11. How Meat Caused the Coronavirus Outbreak
Experts believe that meat may be to blame for China’s coronavirus outbreak. The virus has been traced to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the city of Wuhan. According to a study published in The Lancet earlier this month, there are three possibilities that caused the rapid spread. An infected person may have entered the market or it may have been a single animal or group of animals. China has banned the wild animal meat market to curb the coronavirus.