Would You Like A Protein: An Open Response to an Open Letter

Recently, one of our guests tweeted something way heavier than the usual complaint about a forgotten lemon wedge. Writer and thinker Chris Castiglione called us out on the way our servers ask, “Would you like a protein with that?” Chris posed that this phrase distances our guests from the very real (and honestly, problematic) industry of animal agriculture, and also ignores the fact that veggies alone contain plenty of protein.

Chris isn’t wrong. Animal agriculture is a complicated topic. It’s one of the leading contributors to climate change: just one calorie of animal protein requires more than ten times the fossil fuel input as a calorie of plant protein, and we all know today’s quantities of livestock emit heaps of nasty toxic emissions. Then again, there are certain nutrients our body can get only from meat (without resorting to artificial supplements), and the medical community has found no conclusive evidence that we should ditch meat for good. In fact, “meat consumption is a part of our evolutionary heritage; meat production has been a major component of modern food systems; carnivory should remain, within limits, an important component of a civilization that finally must learn how to maintain the integrity of its only biosphere,” writes scientist Vaclav Smil in his seriously informative book Should We Eat Meat?: Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory.

Eating meat in an ethical way is a conscious choice, and although Dig Inn will continue to serve it, we never want to gloss over the more difficult aspects of this imperfect industry. Ethical meat does exist, and there are many husbandry practices that actually sequester carbon and don’t contribute to climate change. Our sourcing team is always on the lookout for the most sustainable producers possible. Obviously, we’d like to see an industry-wide shift toward these practices, and will do all we can to influence demand.

“Dig Inn serves tens of thousands of people each day. You have a powerful opportunity to educate people about nutrition by using language correctly.” — Chris Castiglione

To echo our main man Chris, a nutritionally sound, protein-packed meal doesn’t have to include meat. Y’all should know by now that we’re pretty obsessed with everything that comes out of the ground; our menu, our entire business for that matter, is shaped by the growing seasons. We create quizzes to determine which veggie we most represent, we pore over brussels porn, we debate over how to best fit a stalk of asparagus in a takeaway container. While we’ve always prided ourselves on being fruit n’ veg cheer captains, Chris has helped us see that the way we currently structure our ordering process is selling our MVPs short. We’re walking the walk, without talking the talk.

It all boils down to this — if we all start changing the way we talk about food, chances are the way we consume it will change, too. This is why we’re dropping the vague ‘protein’ line, and phrasing the question straight up: “Would you like meat, fish, or tofu?” Though it takes time to learn new habits, we’re committed to doing this right — you should see a full shift in all our restaurants over the next month.

Wielding the chef’s knife gives us a huge amount of respect for the food we serve. We want our language to reflect the mindfulness with which we create, prepare, and serve the bounty in your bowl. Dig Inn operates in the spirit of transparency, and as an aware restaurant, we aim to create aware guests. If every now and then that means being reminded of our very own mission by one of you, so be it. We couldn’t be happier to get cut down to size.

Perfect Imperfections ← P R E V I O U S

N E X T → What’s At Stake — Our Food Policy Debrief