A street food vendor in Leeds Kirkgate Market will become one of the first in the UK to switch from a meat-based, to a completely vegan menu.
Fat Annie’s, founded by owner James Stock, plans to launch a fully vegan menu in the coming weeks after originally introducing a vegetarian menu in late 2020.
The New York inspired street food vendor had been selling meat-based hot dogs and burgers since it first began trading as a food cart on the streets of Manchester in 2014.
When Fat Annie’s was forced to close due to Covid restrictions in 2020, James decided to overhaul his menu – and when the shutters re-opened after the November lockdown there was no longer any meat on the menu.
Animal welfare and environmental considerations were at the heart of James’s decision to first cut meat out of his own diet, and then gradually carry that forward into his business.
James said: “A couple of years ago I decided personally to go meat free and at that point I remember watching (Simon Amstell’s mockumentary) Carnage and thinking, I really do not want to own a meat business anymore.”
Finding his enthusiasm for his business waning, James began to introduce meat-free options at Fat Annie’s and eventually removed all meat-based products from the menu.
James added: “The pandemic came along and that gave the ideal opportunity, a chance to reflect and reset, because we had to close anyway for around six months – so I thought if I’m going to do this, it’s now or never.”
Fat Annie’s now boasts a menu all of which is suitable for vegetarians or can be made vegan – and the plan is to introduce a new, 100% vegan menu in the coming weeks.
The change means that Fat Annie’s is amongst the first street food vendors in the UK to ditch its meat-based products for a fully vegan menu.
There are now an estimated 7.2 million adults in the UK following a meat-free diet, with the number expected to increase significantly with roughly a further 6.5 million intending to try a meat-free diet by the end of 2021.
However, customer responses to the changes at Fat Annie’s have been mixed, as James said: “Some people have been really supportive.
“I tried not to be preachy – it was about saying, whether you are just trying to cut back on meat or you are full-on vegan, we want to be able to serve you great food.
“Some people got that, but we have had some customers who have got a bit angry with us.”
Although the change in stock has increased the cost of running Fat Annie’s and risked losing its customer base, James feels as though going meat-free has been worthwhile.
He added: “I have no regrets because, on a personal level, I would not want to be where we were before, when we had a business that I was not proud of.
“Now I’m proud of what we do, we are part of the future and the solution.”