Hold the charred animal flesh

Rain and wind weren’t enough to keep two scantily clad People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals members from promoting Burger King’s new vegetarian burger, the BK Veggie, Tuesday afternoon.

In what once would have been considered an unholy alliance, the often controversial animal rights group and the nation’s second-largest fast food chain have teamed up to reduce animal cruelty and promote vegetarianism.

Kristie Phelps and Brandi Valladolid, campaign coordinators for PETA, stood in the light rain wearing revealing outfits designed to look like well-placed lettuce. The two gave out more than 60 veggie burgers during the noontime lunch rush at the Kietzke Lane Burger King.

“It might seem odd,” Phelps says. “I felt very out of place.”

But while she may have initially felt out of place at a primarily meat-serving restaurant, Phelps said that a lot of good has come from the partnership.

“They made a host of concessions,” Phelps says. “They’ve made sure the animals are rendered unconscious and aren’t sent down the slaughter line kicking and screaming.”

For the past six months, PETA has been working with Burger King to come up with improved standards for the treatment of animals. Under new guidelines cooperatively developed by PETA and Burger King, the burger giant will no longer purchase meat from plants shown not to consistently stun cattle before they are killed.

Burger King will also ensure that the pork and chicken meat that they buy comes from animals with larger cages to live in and the eggs are from non-force-molted hens. Force molting is a process of starving hens to increase the laying cycle. Once hens start to molt, or replace their feathers, they stop laying eggs. The eggs from force-molted hens have been shown to be of poorer quality and have a higher level of salmonella.

As for the new veggie burger, Burger King already offers the patty in Europe and Canada. The burger giants introduced the burger to the United States on March 18. Burger King wanted to have a product that vegetarians and meat-eaters alike would enjoy and also reduce the chance of people being allergic to the product. While many commercial vegetarian burgers are made with soy, a common meat substitute, the BK Veggie is made up of rice, oats and vegetables.

While Burger King cooks the burger on its grills, the director of operations for its 12 northern Nevada stores, Ken Johnson, said that Burger King can microwave the patty for vegetarians who don’t want the patty touching any meat.

Johnson also said that the burger provides a low-fat alternative for meat-eaters. The BK Veggie weighs in at 370 calories and 10 grams of fat, including the mayonnaise, lettuce and tomatoes. Take off the mayonnaise and it’s nearly fat-free. Compare this to Burger King’s trademark burger, The Whopper, which comes in at 680 calories and 39 grams of fat—before the fries.

And of course at Burger King you can have it your way. Mine’s with mustard and pickles—axe the mayo.gabrield@newsreview.com