Munich’s Oktoberfest embraces the vegan sausage
After two years of cancellations due to coronavirus, overflowing stein glasses and rented Lederhosen returned with a vengeance at Oktoberfest in Munich last Saturday, but something else has changed: organisers have added a vegan menu.
Oktoberfest changes with the times
Just a few years ago, when the mainstream shift towards vegetarian and vegan diets was beginning in Germany, it would have been hard to imagine supermarkets like Lidl and Penny having their own vegan ranges. The vegan shift penetrating the meat-eaters haven that is Oktoberfest would have been unthinkable.
According to the Ministry of Nutrition and Agriculture (BMEL) 7 percent of Germans eat a vegetarian diet and 1 percent, a vegan diet. With animal welfare and the now frequently discussed negative impact of meat and dairy production on the environment, 44 percent of Germans are reducing their consumption of animal products.
This year the Oktoberfest vegan menu contains animal-free versions of every traditional German dish, from Allgäuer Käsespätzle (southern German cheesy noodles) to Soja-Steak mit geschmolzenen Zwiebeln (soya steak with caramelised onions). Vegan options of the dishes were offered at Oktoberfest as early as nine years ago, but back then it was rather Käsespätzle without the cheese.
How will the Munich crowd react to the vegan menu?
According to newspaper Berliner Morgenpost, Oktoberfest 2019 saw revellers consume almost 435.000 chickens, about 66.400 knuckles of ham, 125 oxen and 30 calves. This year so far, the crowds have had a mixed reaction. Upon seeing Oktoberfest’s vegan Weißwurst (veal sausage), cabaret artist Monika Gruber told Berliner Morgenpost, “I don’t understand it. I mean, you don’t order a kohlrabi containing meat.”
Gruber’s colleague was more sympathetic. “It's good that nutrition is changing. Vegan veal sausage or a vegan "meat", it’s positive," he said, before outing himself as a meat eater. Comedian Oliver Pocher was also in the beer tent. “I eat everything. I want to eat one of the chickens. You can save yourself a flu vaccine because of all the antibiotics,” he quipped.
While festival manager Christian Baumgärtner welcomes the development, he is determined the festival should not depart from its omnivorous roots: “We want to go with the times, but not drift," he told Berliner Morgenpost.
Vegan Käsespätzle and Soja-Steak may be a few years away from becoming a threat to the popularity of their animal product counterparts, but “a massive food system transformation is taking place," says Anna-Lena Klapp of the nutrition organisation ProVeg. "More and more people are recognising the enormous problems that an animal-heavy diet helps to cause: from climate change and environmental destruction to diseases of affluence and zoonotic pandemics to world hunger and animal suffering."