Los Angeles

L.A. City Councilman Wants to Force Movie Theaters to Sell Tofu Dogs

Creating more food waste to help the environment


Tofu dog
www.westend61.de/Westend61 / Harald Walker/Newscom

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz's wife and daughter are vegans, so now he's proposing an ordinance to require concessions at major venues to sell vegan food.

He's not just talking about city-owned venues such as airport terminals, but also privately owned and operated movie theaters and stadiums. And he's not just talking about just anything vegan; he wants to force these venues to offer vegan protein options.

If you need an example of how little the average government official grasps how private commerce works, check out his explanation to Variety of how he thinks this will play out if implemented: "There's really no downside to it. The change could easily be made in any venue. A movie theater serves hot dogs. They can serve vegan dogs. It's easy."

It's easy! Apparently vegan hot dogs are free and do not impose any costs whatsoever on these venues!

So what happens when a movie theater buys vegan dogs as ordered, but people don't want to buy them or eat them because they're gross? Seriously, I know vegans who won't touch them. I have actually enjoyed several meatless meals, but these were at restaurants that specialize in making it all taste good, not concession stands. If there's no downside to it, as Koretz insists, then why aren't they already doing it?

Nobody, nobody, is going to convert to veganism on the basis of what's in some warmer at a movie theater, so nothing in this plan is going to change anyone's larger eating habits. The people who want to buy hot dogs are going to buy hot dogs. Vegans didn't just look at the lack of options and then shrug and buy meat, did they? They can make it through a movie or a basketball game without backsliding into beef, right?

And what happens to the uneaten tofu dogs? Koretz argues that vegan food is better for the environment than eating meat and helps fight climate change. But is that if nobody buys the concession stands' vegan options, they're going to get thrown away, creating food waste. Food waste is bad for the environment! Food that ends up in landfills produces methane as it decomposes, contributing to greenhouse gas problems.

In short, this plan is not going to result in less meat consumption, and it may actually contribute slightly to global warming.

We have actual existing evidence that such food mandates contribute to problems while solving little. In Minneapolis, a city ordinance ordered all stores to carry fresh produce and other foods deemed healthier, even if nobody wanted to buy them. Stores had to devote money and shelf space to the required goods, and then throw them away when they rotted. People didn't want them.

If enough people actually want vegan options at these venues, they'll certainly let the vendors know. Vegans aren't known for being shy about their eating habits. Dodger Stadium already offers vegan hot dogs, and STAPLES Center has vegan food choices. It's simple supply and demand, the marketplace in action. If people want vegan food at the movie theater, and the theater realizes it can make money serving them, it'll provide those choices. If it won't make money serving them, all Koretz is doing is forcing additional costs on these businesses (many of which operate on pretty thin margins) and contributing to the food waste problem. It's a terrible idea, and the city should reject his plans.

Bonus link: Over at the Los Angeles Times, occasional Reason contributor Gustavo Arellano blasts Koretz's poor grasp of the economics of food production and the operating margins of concession stands.