Plant-based diets have grown in popularity over the past few years with those who identify as vegan increasing by at least 600%, reported by GlobalData.
According to Josh Tetrick, founder of plant-based egg-replacement company JUST Inc., veganism is growing in rural areas as well.
“Plant-based foods used to be for folks eating breakfast at vegan cafes in Northern California, but today plant-based foods are increasingly for folks I was raised with, eating breakfast in diners or at their kitchen tables in Birmingham, Alabama,” Tetick told Forbes Magazine.
Rural places are beginning to find a customer base for plant-based foods, and Starkville is no exception.
Starkville resident Milo King lives a vegan lifestyle and has found little difficulty following a plant-based diet in this area.
“Being a vegan in Starkville, and Mississippi as a whole, hasn’t been difficult for me. Sure, there isn't a ton of options for myself and my husband if we’re wanting to go out to eat for a date or just because we don’t feel like cooking. But, we don’t like to eat out anyway,” King said.
King works at Nine-Twentynine Coffee Bar and has found support for his diet there.
“Luckily for me, I work at 929, which is like one of the only places in town to grab some vegan baked goods. Our baker is vegan, so she always tries to have some ‘v-friendly’ options in the case,” King said.
Overall, King does wish more restaurants had more specific menus for plant-based customers.
“I wish more places had a separate menu saying, ‘Hey, this is vegan!’ But, I understand that’s a lot of extra work,” King said.
King also noted he enjoys getting the famous "ImpossibleBurger," a genetically engineered burger which has gained immense popularity globally, which is available at Starkville’s Burger King.
Other locally-owned restaurants, such as Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern, are beginning to adapt to the demand for this diet. The local pub-style restaurant is known for their pizza, but after searching all the vegan menus in Starkville, it seems that Dave's Dark Horse Tavern also has the most extensive and varied plant-based menu in Starkville. Customers can choose from vegan pizza, cauliflower bites, a quinoa falafel basket and the newly-added Beyond Meat Bully Burger.
Jorge Badillo, general manager at Dave's Dark Horse Tavern, explained why they make the effort to include a variety of vegan options.
"We want to attempt to accommodate different dietary needs because we want to be inclusive. We understand that going out to eat can be difficult with dietary restrictions, and we want folks to be able to come here and have more options that just a salad," Badillo said.
Bulldog Burger, an innovative burger joint located in the Cotton District, also offers a vegan burger option named the “Veggie 21.”
Assistant manager of Bulldog Burger, Kalla McIIwain, said the restaurant wants all of their customers to have something on the menu for them.
“When we noticed that vegan option was becoming a common request, we were happy to oblige. We love getting requests from the community,” McIIwain said.
Local coffee shops such as Strange Brew Coffeehouse and Nine-Twenty-Nine Coffee Bar offer alternative milk options for those who want to opt-out of cow's milk in their coffee beverages.
Additionally, though some places in Starkville do not have a specific menu for vegans, many restaurants are happy to adjust entrees as necessary as long as customers ask for substitutions. With many menu items, plant-based customers can simply request accommodations, such as avocado or hummus as a substitution for cheese on sandwiches.
Abigail Breazeale, senior history major and vegan, enjoys the plant-based accommodations made by her favorite local restaurants—Thai Siam, Pita Pit, Umi, Casa Bravo and Restaurant Tyler.
Though there is no official club for vegetarian or vegans on campus, those who are looking for support for their plant-based and vegetarian diets can visit Mississippi Vegetarians and Vegans website.
Breazeale said she has found support through her family and friends.
“I have found many people within my circle that are supportive and open to veganism. Most of my friends go out of their way to prepare vegan food for me when we have dinners or other gatherings and some have even transitioned to a vegetarian, vegan diet after talking with me about veganism,” Breazeale said.
Though she does feel supported by her friends in Starkville, she hopes to see more involvement from the community.
“The one thing I wish Starkville would add is a vegan festival or event where the greater community could come together and try vegan food while being exposed to the vegan message,” Breazeale said.