Vegan Daddy Meats: Salt Lake City’s First “Plant Butcher”
Food: Interviews & Features
Adam Diener has been vegan for 26 years. At age 15, his older, already vegan, brothers introduced him to a documentary that illustrated the effect factory farming has on animals and our planet. “It stuck in my heart, and since that day, I chose never to eat animals again,” Adam says. Being a child of the ’80s, though, there weren’t many vegan options, let alone vegan meat imitations. Adam began experimenting with vital wheat gluten so that he and his siblings could have something special to eat on holidays just like the rest of his omnivorous family members. Thus began the years-long process of making and perfecting homemade vegan meat. A few decades later, Adam and his sister, Jodie Diener, opened Vegan Daddy Meats, providing culinary-grade, handcrafted vegan deli meats and plant-based meat imitations.
“I really want people to go vegan for the environmental and ethical impact—the future of food is plant-based.”
On January 1, 2020, Adam officially opened the business. Vegan candy bar company Sweet Hazel & Co. Bakeshop & Bistro started their business around the same time and invited Vegan Daddy to feature their food in the former’s shop, where the product sold out in just one day. From there, Adam has worked with small businesses all over the Salt Lake Valley, both vegan and otherwise. Lazy Day Cafe uses the plant-based Battered And Fried Cutlets in their Chik’n and Waffles and Piper Down Pub offers the vegan version of a Reuben sandwich using the Vegan Daddy’s marbled Corned Beaf, just to name a few.
With over 16 different products, Adam stays busy perfecting his recipes and technique. “A lot of thought goes into the process of making the meat. The vegan ‘chicken,’ for instance, has a versatile flavor that can go with anything—gravy, wing sauce or marinara for chicken parm,” Adam says. “My purpose is to create the right bite and chew using flavors that taste like meat. I didn’t stop eating meat because it tasted gross; I stopped eating it because it wasn’t a sustainable option.” If there is any excess faux meat, it can be dehydrated and made into jerky— a product that has become so heavily in demand “that it could be a business all on its own,” Adam says.
For vegans, accessing local, well-made meat imitations can be a challenge. Adam saw a need to provide locals with plant-based options that weren’t mass-produced. At events such as Kilby Block Party, Adam has provided food to hundreds of vegans and non-vegans alike. “What we’re making can appeal to everyone—sometimes people don’t even realize it’s vegan if they haven’t seen our branding,” Adam says. The spin on an Arby’s beef and cheddar sandwich turned into the Cheef n’ Better, a flavor-packed sandwich with less ethical implications. Vegan Daddy Meats even offers a spin on Superbowl Sunday with their Boneless Vings served with a homemade dipping sauce. Whether the food is prepared into an entire meal or sold as stand-alone meat substitutes for patrons to prepare at home, Vegan Daddy Meats is providing an experience to non-meat eaters that they may have been missing.
What we’re making can appeal to everyone—sometimes people don’t even realize it’s vegan if they haven’t seen our branding.”
In just a few short months, Vegan Daddy Meats will open a storefront that provides the whole deli experience. White tiles will line the walls of the plant-based butcher shop where you can see the “meat” being cut with a traditional meat slicer and wrapped in brown paper by the pound. You can even snag a hot deli sandwich on the way out. Sibling duo Adam and Jodie Diener have created a haven for those who want to put their ethics where their mouth is, channeling Adam’s creative cooking skills and activism into Vegan Daddy Meats. “I really want people to go vegan for the environmental and ethical impact—the future of food is plant-based,” Adam says.
Check out more food Features:
Food Review: Ethical Dining at the Mark of the Beastro
Food Review: Tasty Vegan Cravings at Vegan House