After years of watching his sister Aubry thrive as a vegan, Kale Walch followed suit. Then the pair took their veganism one step further.
Together, the brother-sister duo worked to perfect the art of realistic meat alternatives, resulting in a vegan butcher shop, the Herbivorous Butcher.
"We both have always wanted to change the world somehow. This was the most likely way we could do it," Kale Walch told The Minnesota Daily.
With the growing demand for meat — as well as the revelation of its many negative environmental impacts — the siblings saw it fit to help facilitate change at the dinner table. This Saturday the two present the grand opening of their shop.
The Walches' food operations began in 2013 when they were making meat alternatives for their own consumption. After sharing it with friends and receiving positive feedback, the pair decided to share their creations with the Twin Cities. What started as a stand at the Minneapolis Farmers Market evolved into pop-ups around the metro and now, a brick-and-mortar shop.
They turned to Kickstarter to fund their business plans. To their surprise, the Herbivorous Butcher campaign raked in more than $60,000. Since then, the vegan butcher shop has garnered support from all over the world.
"The Kickstarter was the first time we got that validation from people other than our regular customers. It was crazy getting all these people from all around the country and around the world," Kale Walch said. "That's when I think the both of us knew we can actually do this."
The Herbivorous Butcher provides small-batch and locally sourced meat alternatives that are fresh and flavorful. The shop's menu boasts more than 40 different kinds of vegan meats and cheeses. In order to create realistic-tasting meat, the Walches use nutritional yeast to create savory flavors and incorporate a variety of beans, herbs and juices.
The trick, the Walches say, is to follow their gut.
"It starts with a serious craving and ends with a product," Aubry Walch said.
"We started (the Herbivorous Butcher) because we were getting hungry all the time and the stuff on the market wasn't doing anything," Kale Walch said. "We're still hungry, still making food we want to eat."
While the siblings' main source of inspiration comes from their stomachs, their customers also play a large role. Many of the Herbivorous Butcher's products began with customer suggestions, such as vegan pork chops.
"Jeremy Messersmith agreed to come to our grand opening and play a few songs — if we could make him a particular French cheese that's got black mold all over it. It's not that intense most of the time, but that's kind of how it goes," Kale said.
The Walches acknowledge the fact that meat is tradition. Raised in a meat-heavy Guamanian household, the two understand the difficulty of transitioning to veganism. Since childhood, the two have been exposed to a diverse array of Korean, Japanese and Spanish food.
"Having a big old piece of meat that sticks to your ribs or cutting up a roast with your family or slicing up a piece of turkey for Thanksgiving — it's just kind of a habit," Kale said.
Aubry notes that there are ways to maintain tradition while switching over to a more ethical, healthy diet.
"The reason why we do this is so that it's not difficult for omnivores. They don't have to be like, 'Oh I'm just going to eat beans and rice for the rest of my life.' You can still eat steak; all you gotta do is sub it out," Aubry said.
Compared to other meat substitutes on the market, the Walches believe their products rank higher in terms of texture, flavor and nutrition.
"It's arguably better than the (animal products) because during the process we can infuse so much flavor into every molecule and protein itself. You just can't do that with a cow," Kale said.
An AP Exchange feature by Brenda Tran, The Minnesota Daily