Lactose-intolerant and vegetarian in Switzerland? You’ll starve!

Recently I went shopping at Migros (one of the largest Swiss store chains, covering nearly 50% of the market) and was, once again, unable to find any chicken meat from Switzerland. What’s worse, products with processed chicken meat (such as chicken nuggets) are usually made with chicken meat from Brazil. This begs one very deep question: What the fuck? Excuse the expletive, but how come that in one of the world’s richest countries, we cannot afford locally produced chicken meat? Migros presumably buys Brazilian meat because it’s cheaper to raise chickens in god-awful conditions in Brazil, kill them, freeze them and ship them over to Switzerland than it is to abide by the (pretty restrictive) Swiss animal protection laws regarding chickens and produce the meat here.

Migros is a company that works under the pretense that they have some moral standards. They don’t sell alcohol or cigarettes, for example. Instead, in order not to lose face but to cash in on those markets, they bought their competitor Denner who makes a lot of its annual profits exclusively from alcohol and tobacco. The Denner deal shows that Migros has no right to call themselves morally superior, and the Brazilian chicken meat isn’t helping that.

Because of issues like these, I’ve often pondered becoming vegetarian, simply because it would mean I don’t have to think about all these animal problems anymore, at least for my little world. But Migros’ and Coop’s vegetarian products won’t help me at all, because most of them contain milk! So for a lactose-intolerant vegetarian, the Swiss supermarket landscape looks very bleak. Out of sixteen Migros products, only three were without milk, and they were the most basic and most boring ones. At Coop it looks worse, of 23 products I’ve seen, only four are without milk, milk serum, cream or fresh cheese. This is not counting non-specific vegetarian products — I was only looking at meat replacements.

The best solution to the problem would be to create every single dish yourself, but that means you’re missing out on (very yummy) Quorn and tofu products from these major supermarket chains. Small and expensive specialized stores with other products do exist, but Quorn-based products aren’t really available there, and many of the meat replacements they offer have the same milk problem as the major players’ ones. You’re also looking at prices between 10 and 50% higher than what you’d pay at the major chains, so for people with less money, this probably won’t work at all.

I’ve written Migros an e-mail asking whether they might be adding milk-free vegetarian products to their product lines. Let’s see what they write back.

Update: Migros answers! Here’s the key sentence:

Um unsere Produkte für Allergiker und Veganer interessanter zu machen, werden wir zukünftig auf Milchprodukte im Vegi-Sortiment weitestgehend verzichten.

Migros will stop using milk products in their vegetarian product lines as far as possible. This is in order to make their products more interesting for vegans and people with allergies. That’s great news 🙂 It means the mythical lactose-intolerant vegetarian might actually be able to.. err.. not starve. And thus exist.

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