In 2017, Portland’s White Owl Social Club sold roughly $80,000 worth of beef and lamb burgers. By 2019, that number will drop to zero. Last week, the metal bar announced on social media that it had permanently eliminated beef and lamb from its menu.
“Most people know that meat burgers are unsustainable and extremely damaging to the environment, not to mention [mass-produced] beef is a criminally cruel industry,” explains White Owl co-owner Matt Relkin. “At first we thought [lamb] was a better choice environmentally, but upon further research, we learned that lamb was even worse than beef in regards to greenhouse emissions.”
White Owl hasn’t gone entirely vegetarian—carnivores can still chow down on chicken sandwiches and buffalo wings. But the bar’s signature burger is now made with an Impossible patty, a futuristic meat alternative that’s said to smell, sizzle, taste, and even bleed like beef. Impossible Burgers claim to use 75 percent less water and 95 percent less land than conventional beef, making it an obvious choice for environmentally conscious restauranteurs.
“We were getting more responsibly sourced beef and lamb from a local farm, but we couldn’t keep ignoring the big picture,” says Relkin. “It was bullshit thinking just because I knew where our lamb and beef was coming from, that there wasn’t still this underlying presence of the environmental footprint. It’s still there, no matter the quality and how happy the animal is.”
Curious customers can scope out White Owl’s new, largely vegan menu on the bar’s website. A high-tech meatless patty might be offputting to some diners, but Relkin hopes patrons will give it a shot.
“We hope customers trust us with the choices we are making,” says Relkin. “It’s truly coming from a place of compassion and concern for this world we all live in. We don’t want to be part of the problem.”