The Non-Vegan Vegan Magazine & {Really} Vegan Mac & Cheese

by Heather

It has all the makings of a good mac and cheese:


twisty pasta noodles


crunchy breadcrumbs


creamy goodness.


Except it’s missing one thing….

the cheese.

It’s got red potatoes, cashews, onions, carrots, and mustard, but no cheese.

But  you’d never know it. I wouldn’t go as far as to call this recipe macaroni and cheese, but it was a yummy, cheese-ish, pasta dish.


And it was even better the next day as macaroni pie.


Speaking of VegNews, have you heard the rumors? Supposedly the vegan magazine is using pictures of meat-filled foods and claiming they’re vegan.

vegnews uses meat

What’s more, they’re allegedly using stock internet photos and Photoshopping them to meet their non-meat standards, such as digitally wiping out the bones in a stack of ribs.

photoshopped non vegan stock photography

{I’m going to give them the benefit of doubt and hope they’re paying for the pictures; not Photoshopping the watermark out.}

I know it’s hard to get pictures of food to look like you want them to, and non-food items {like Elmer’s glue} are often used to improve the appeal, but what do you think about using meat products to represent vegetarian items?

non vegan vegan photos

I think it’s false advertising and hypocritical. If you can’t get the vegetarian dish to look appealing on it’s own, what are you saying about the recipe you’re publishing? That it looks gross? That it tastes gross? The vegan meals aren’t good enough?

Besides, if you believe in veganism enough to publish an entire magazine about it, why are you using animal products as ingredients? Something about that doesn’t sit right with me.

Here’s the VegNews official response:

vegnews official response to non meat photo claims

It’s not easy to stand up for and follow through on something you believe in, but if you can’t do it, who’s going to?

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Hats @ See How She Runs April 15, 2011 at 8:23 am
Totally agree with your views on this! I don't agree with misrepresenting recipes or using photographs that go against your beliefs. Hats @ See How She Runs Just blogged...I am awesome and I look like a Goddess
thehealthyapron April 15, 2011 at 8:32 am
1. I'm definitely making this recipe. 2. I dont know how I feel about this issue, particularly because it IS so hard to get food to look good, esp. vegan dishes and even if they taste great (which I've tried many of their recipes), people want to see them in the magazine LOOK just as appealing. I'm not going to stop using their recipes because of this.
Faith @ lovelyascharged April 15, 2011 at 9:32 am
I don't agree with their practice. I personally struggle with getting certain foods to look photogenic (lentils, anyone?) but I have to make do with what I can. I certainly feel like a magazine that has FAR more resources than I do can whip together something passable at worst. With professional equipment, food stylists, lighting professionals, etc, I feel that they could put their best effort into accurately depicting the recipe that they are touting and nobody would blink at it for not being gawker-worthy. I would far rather see them hold true to the foods they are promoting, even if it meant a slightly-less-appetizing shot. Faith @ lovelyascharged Just blogged...I Really Didn’t Want that Anyways…
Kelly April 15, 2011 at 10:01 am
I think that is incredibly deceitful! Kelly Just blogged...comfort food
Lee April 15, 2011 at 10:21 am
I was actually thinking a lot about this yesterday. Before I state my views, I want to point out that I am not a vegetarian. I don't know how much of an impact that makes on my view. But I am a graphic designer and I've worked on tough deadlines before. Part of making a magazine is having it be aesthetically pleasing and I think that people often times forget that. When you are on a tough deadline and don't have the resources alloted to you that would be ideal, you have to do what you have to do. Would people find it shady if they were stock photos but vegetarian? The magazine is correct in it's response that using stock photography is a very common industry practice. I definitely believe that they don't have the resources to take the pictures themselves or they would. And I don't think that it's practical for people to say, "I could have sent them some photos for free." It's more complicated than that. I know that this is not the popular view on this topic, but I just thought I'd share what I thought. I totally respect your views on it too!
Lee April 15, 2011 at 11:12 am
BTW - I just asked my boss about it who is very un-vegetarian and she agrees with you that it's very shady. So I'm definitely not speaking out for all graphic designers! Lee Just blogged...I Ran Before I Crawled Before I Slept
kristin April 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm
Hi Lee! I'm a former VegNews copy editor and professional journalist, magazine editor and writer. I know all about deadlines. But VegNews publishes bi-monthly, as in 6 issues a year. Plus, they are located in San Francisco, which not only has a top journalism school at SF State but also Academy of Art. The city is CRAWLING with students who would be willing to shoot some beautiful photos for free to pad their portfolios. Not to mention their editorial assistants are unpaid and MANY of their feature written pieces are unpaid. They really have no excuse. I brought up this practice when I was editing for them and they dismissed my concerns and terminated my services not long after.
Heather April 15, 2011 at 3:44 pm
Wow- I can't imagine why so many people aren't getting paid when there seem to be so many resources available! Clearly I have no experience or idea how the industry works, but it seems like if they wanted something to work they could make it happen!
Lee April 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm
I admit that I don't know anything about the specific magazine. Plus, I was really putting myself in the shoes of a page designer with limited resources, not the management of the magazine who ultimately makes the decision on what to spend money on. I really do see both sides of the controversy. I just wonder if it's more about using stock photos as a practice or specifically what they did which was to use stock photos of real meat. Like would people be upset if they found out that it was a stock photo, but it was still vegan or vegetarian? I find this story so interesting though! Lee Just blogged...I Ran Before I Crawled Before I Slept
Heather April 15, 2011 at 4:19 pm
I'm more upset about the stock photos I think! Although I can understand the vegan thing being extra upsetting since veganism is often a matter of ethics for many people... This makes me wonder about all magazines- are they stock photos? If not, are the photos of the actual recipe they're publishing? Definitely interesting...
Heather April 15, 2011 at 3:41 pm
I love hearing your point of view Lee! I have no idea what it takes to make a magazine (obviously). Honestly, I'm more shocked that using stock photos is common practice!!! I usually use the picture to decide whether I want to make something or not- how am I supposed to know if it's not a picture of the actual recipe, just some random photo?!
AlisonM April 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm
I've never made a vegan version of mac n cheese, but this sounds like one I would happily make. I love that about your recipes :) As for the non-vegan food photos, I don't really understand exactly what they're doing, but I suppose I don't think it's any different to other advertising practices. From what I understand (and what others have said above) using stock photos is fairly standard. I guess it's like the photos on the front of packaging, where it ways "serving suggestion only". Basically none of it is real! AlisonM Just blogged...Black Holes and Revelations and Cupcakes
Allie (Live Laugh Eat) April 15, 2011 at 10:31 pm
I heard something about Vegnews controversy but not the details. Thanks for sharing that with us! What I don't get is if they're publishing these recipes shouldn't they be testing them first? Hence a photo opportunity! I mean, I'll gladly test and take photos of their food for them...
tattoo machine April 16, 2011 at 2:04 am
I definitely wanna try your recipe. I agree with you, Its basically false advertising. I'm quite shocked that using stock photos is a common practice, I never knew.
Lauren (PB&G) April 16, 2011 at 8:39 am
Your mac and cheese looks delish! I love cashews as a cheese substitute - YUM! The Vegnews news is so infuriating. It's so disheartening to find out that people are pulling that kind of thing. Good thing there are so many vegan blogs that post 100% vegan yumminess in all it's glory! Lauren (PB&G) Just blogged...Here a Bake- there a Bake
Karolina April 16, 2011 at 9:17 am
Wow- very interesting. I'd be disappointed if I got the magazine and found that they weren't being honest, and would be likely to cancel any subscription. the mac and cheese looks delicious! Karolina Just blogged...Lifes Tiny Delights
Amy Hagerup April 16, 2011 at 9:09 pm
I'm loving this Mac and cheese varieties! Wow. Amy Hagerup Just blogged...Two Critical Steps to Help Discover the Cause of Your Health Problems
Eleanor@eatinglikeahorse April 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm
I can't believe they've done that! That's so dishonest and just makes a mockery of the whole magazine. I'm glad I've never paid good money for it because I'd be asking for it back if I had! Eleanor@eatinglikeahorse Just blogged...Bring me sunshine
Jess @ Fit Chick in the City May 6, 2011 at 10:38 am
First off that recipe looks amazing! Secondly, I hadn't heard about this controversy. I'm completely disappointed that they used meat filled photos! Jess @ Fit Chick in the City Just blogged...Denying an Injury

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