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Friday 4 April  
Vegetarian sandwich
Michel Walraven's picture
Hilversum, Netherlands
Hilversum, Netherlands

Vegetarian butchers make a killing

Published on : 14 September 2011 - 4:45pm | By Michel Walraven (Vegetarian sandwich)
More about:

Fake chicken, fake gyros and fake sausages – all this and much more is available from the Vegetarian Butcher. The chain is the first of its kind in the world. Not only do the foods on sale look exactly like their real meat counterparts but, according to many a meat eater, they taste very similar as well.

Eating meat is on the decline in the Netherlands. These days, some 75 percent of people no longer eat meat on a daily basis. Animal welfare concerns, disease in cattle and the presence of antibiotics in chicken are among the many reasons behind the low-meat or no-meat eating trend and behind the success of the Vegetarian Butcher shops.

Can't believe it's not chicken
“In fact, Ferran Adria, a.k.a. the best chef in the world, wouldn’t believe it wasn’t chicken he was tasting after being presented with our chicken substitute made from vegetable matter”, says Niko Koffeman, one of the founders of the Vegetarian Butcher chain.

The first Vegetarian Butcher shop opened its doors in October 2010 in The Hague. Now, less than a year later, there are 30 spread all over the country. The display counter of these shops challenges even a staunchly carnivorous stomach not to rumble; the fake meat products are almost indistinguishable from the real thing.

Eighty percent of the shops’ clientele are already vegetarians and vegans, says Koffeman, yet their main target group is people in transition: those that want to either cut down on meat consumption or to stop eating it completely.

"Animal cruelty is one reason, but there's also a growing concern for sustainability. After all, meat production is highly inefficient. When you start food production with, say, soy or lupin beans and you feed them to animals – as happens with 50 percent of the worlds’ wheat harvests – 90 percent gets transformed into manure and body heat. Only ten percent of useful proteins are generated. Instead, we make use of these useful proteins directly for human consumption. Particularly since we can create a product that has the exact same look, taste and texture as meat. Taking the animal out of the process would provide us with a surplus of vegetable products so large we could nourish more than five times the world population."

No compromise on flavour
Back to the Vegetarian Butcher. The products in the display case are either vegetarian or vegan. Koffeman is especially proud of the very popular meatball sandwich – broodje bal is the number one snack food for many people in The Hague.

“People love it, but I have to admit, it’s not a 100% vegetable product. We need to add egg to give it just the right flavour. As long as there’s no meat involved we don’t want to compromise on flavour. Some products just taste better when you add some cream or eggs to them.”

Eating fake meat is not necessarily cheap. For instance, fake chicken at 15 euros a kilogram is a bit more expensive than the real thing sold at a quality butcher's shop. But, according to Koffeman, that will change soon enough. “As production goes up, the price will come down substantially.” 

The Vegetarian Butcher's website:

Twitter @vegebutcher


  • Vegetarian Butcher Store front <br>&copy; -


vonnie 21 May 2012 - 5:02pm / UK

Ooooo please open a shop in England - or supply - Waitrose or the Wholefood Market ....

Beautiful 12 April 2012 - 8:45am / Australia

Goody! Goody! Goody! I've been wondering when vegetarian/vegan butcher shops would open. Come to Australia!!!

Anonymous 15 March 2012 - 3:23pm / USA

When are you coming to American?

Ford F. Davies 21 December 2011 - 5:53am / USA

Interesting item, though you need to get your texts edited. Poor grammar, including punctuation, does your site no favors. F.D.

Rob Marshall 25 January 2012 - 8:52pm / Berkeley, CA USA

Mr. Ford Davies,
You must remember that the Netherlands has one of the most multilingual populations in the world. Be thankful that they are attempting to communicate RNW's viewpoint to you in America. RNW - please excuse the ignorance of my fellow patriot.

Isha 21 December 2011 - 12:52am / New Zealand

With just over 4 million population the percentage of vegetarians is small with the consequence of poor selection or availability of vegetarian products. Is there a possibility some of these fake meat products will be
available in NZ? I noticed when in the UK last year the huge selection of meatless food. Is any importer here willing to take a chance?

sarah pengelly 3 November 2012 - 9:50am / Netherlands

Isha, I was reading an article about NZ - 'New Zealand vegetarians - at odds with their nation'. Quite recent, it says that NZ has just about the lowest rate of vegetarians in the OECD. Reasons are complicated but its really worth a read. You may find it really hard to get anything there but meat - probably changing slowly but part of the culture. I remember it well - I lived there for many years...
Best of luck

Gazzaisvegan 4 December 2011 - 8:10pm / United Kingdom

We need more of these "veg butchers". The governments of Capitalist States will try to block such businesses and or step up their efforts to proliferate animal products through poor NHS/health advice, celebrity and branded advertising streams, a continuation of human and animal suffering, boosting pharmaceutical coffers, all at a time when officially 25% of women in the UK are obese. When vegan bodybuilders are able to maintain healthy body masses of 220lbs and more on a 100% plant based diet of 50g plant protein per day, with zero ill long term effect and plenty of benefits. Video:

Anonymous 25 September 2011 - 10:18pm / USA

This successful and humane business model desperately needs to grow far and fast in every country. I am so pleased to know that the majority of Netherland citizens are making such wise and compassionate dietary choices. Please consider opening stores in the United States and Canada, there will be an enormous following here!

veggie 16 September 2011 - 2:14pm / Netherlands

The top product of the vegetarian butcher is 100% vegan, made from non GMO soy. Another product is made from 100% organic regional lupin. And yes, they have some products with dairy in it. It's not the vegan butcher, but the vegetarian butcher and they sell more delicious vegan food than you will find in any other place in the world. Beacause they are also serving flexitarians and meat-eaters, their range is not 100% vegan, but the biggest part is!

Angelica 16 September 2011 - 8:53am / Australia

The article indicated that some of the products are vegan, others are vegetarian, so hopefully if you do encounter their shop it will be clear which are suitable for you. When I visited Britain the choices for vegetarians in many places were very limited, and must've been even more so for vegans! It was definitely better when I visited again a few years ago, but businesses such as this one would probably add more options still! Personally, I'm not fussed on my food even imitating meat, but it could help meat addicts to kick the habit.

Also, Patrice, periods are a mammalian thing, chooks are birds, and do not menstruate as they don't incubate their young in their womb...

RobinM 16 September 2011 - 6:42am / New Zealand

Claire, so you'd rather they didn't go to the UK because a limited amount of their produce contains dairy or eggs? Surely anything which encourages less meat intake and demonstrates to carnivores that there are real, tasty, convenient and wholesome choices out there should be welcomed. Otherwise the shop they would have occupied will get taken up by another Nando's. Some is clearly better than nothing. Embrace it. (And i do totally respect your decision not to eat dairy or eggs).

Patrice D 15 September 2011 - 6:10pm / WA/USA

I agree, Claire! Sounded great - right up to the eggs and cream part. I do not eat the byproduct of a hen's period or drink the secretions of another species mammary glands. YUCK!

Patrice D 15 September 2011 - 6:08pm / WA / USA

I agree, Claire! Sounded great - right up to the egg and cream part for taste. I don't partake of hen's periods or secretions from another species mammary glands. YUCK!

Ben Bowen 15 September 2011 - 4:31pm / Canada

@ ClaireF - would it matter where they sourced the eggs? We don't eat grocery store eggs, but we have friends who own a chicken farm so we get our eggs from them and their "happy chickens," as we call them at our house, meaning free-run drug-free foraging chickens.

Frons de Boer 15 September 2011 - 2:52pm / NL

The twitter user is: @VegaSlager

ClaireF 15 September 2011 - 1:44pm / UK

well I was very excited by this and was thinking please bring them to the UK until I read that the product contains egg. And yet the article says the bulk of their clientele are veggie and vegan. Not vegan then given the egg content. Shame

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