Delta Rolling Out Vegetarian Meals In First Class

Delta Rolling Out Vegetarian Meals In First Class

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Even though I’m not a vegetarian, this is a development that I’m very happy to see.

Delta debuting new plant-based menus

As we recently learned, Delta is restoring hot meal service in first class on many routes as of March 2022. Delta isn’t just restoring what was offered pre-pandemic, but rather is making an effort to offer vegetarian and plant-based meals onboard.

Delta will have products from Impossible Foods and Black Sheep Foods, as well as more dishes featuring locally grown vegetables. These meals will launch as of this month (March 2022), on flights of 900 miles or longer.

As Kristen Manion Taylor, Delta’s SVP of Inflight Service, describes this development:

“Not only are plant-based meats like Impossible Burger delicious to eat, but they’re also often better for the environment, using far less land and water to produce. These new options are one part of Delta’s broader mission to promote a wellness-focused travel journey.”

Delta is introducing plant-based “lamb” meatballs

Delta’s plant-based meal selection

What kind of plant-based meals should Delta first class passengers expect? So far details of five dishes have been revealed, including the following:

  • A green chili spice-rubbed Impossible Burger, topped with caramelized onion and manchego cheese on a brioche roll; available on select flights of 900+ miles
  • Warm seasonal vegetable plate with broccolini, roasted button mushrooms, grilled heirloom carrots, grilled red onions, and roasted cherry tomatoes, served with herb-scented Israeli couscous and a lemon herb butter; available on select flights of 900+ miles
  • Black Sheep Farms plant-based lamb meatballs, served with spinach rice and feta; available on select flights of 900+ miles departing SFO
  • Impossible Meatballs with a mix of Impossible Burger and Impossible Sausage, and seasoned with a savory homestyle blend, served with pomodoro sauce and orzo risotto, pesto cream, spinach, and roasted tomatoes; available on select flights of 900+ miles departing JFK and LGA
  • Pan-fried cauliflower cakes made with riced cauliflower, rapini and parmesan, and served with creamy pesto orzo, roasted tomatoes, and toasted hazelnuts; available on select flights of 900+ miles departing SEA
Delta is introducing Impossible Burgers

Why I’m excited about Delta’s vegetarian meals

When I was a kid I was a vegetarian for many years. I love animals, and the concept of eating animals just didn’t sit right with me (and to this day it’s all a bit weird to me).

While I’m not vegetarian anymore, I try to be somewhat thoughtful and moderate with the meat I consume. Most frequently I eat fish, while I limit how much beef and chicken I eat. I don’t eat pork (pigs are really smart) or veal (because let them live a little bit, at least).

If I’m going to eat a meat product, I at least like it to be good. This always presents a challenge on planes:

  • Most airlines have very limited catering budgets, and if there are two options, it’s most common for one option to be meat, and one option to be a creamy pasta
  • I often find the meat to be disgusting, but at the same time I don’t want to necessarily have a creamy pasta dish

For example, I’d struggle to eat American’s “turkey” sandwich

American Airlines first class turkey sandwich

And the last chicken dish I had on United wasn’t exactly great either…

United Airlines first class chicken dish with rice and veggies

So I’ve always wished we’d see more non-pasta vegetarian dishes on planes, which are exceedingly rare. I’m thrilled to see Delta finally introducing something along these lines, and this is without a doubt what I’d choose to order on my next Delta flight.

Bottom line

Delta is rolling out new plant-based menus in first class, coinciding with the return of hot meals on routes of 900+ miles. I’m thrilled to see Delta introducing vegetarian meals on a more widespread basis. Given how limited airline catering budgets are, I’d rather have a vegetarian dish than a meat-based dish.

What do you make of Delta rolling out vegetarian menus? Would you order this, regardless of whether or not you’re vegetarian?

Conversations (49)
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  1. Nunya Guest

    Absolutely not. Is anyone on here old enough to remember Soylent Green?

  2. Charlie Diamond

    Lucky: your title says “plant-based” meal selection but none of these dishes are plant based as they all seem to have dairy.
    Dairy is horrible and as bad as meat (for the animals, for your health and for the planet). So it makes no sense

  3. Dolphy Guest

    About time! As a vegetarian I'm often limited to the meal options. So I'm thankful to delta for doing this and hopefully more airlines will follow.

  4. BookLvr Gold

    It's a step in the right direction by Delta and I love to see it!

    My daughter has been vegetarian since she was in 2nd grade and vegan for the last 3+ years. I'm flexitarian--usually eat vegetarian, but will have meat on rare occasions. I love to see more mainstream recognition of plant-based diets. While I'm perfectly willing to special order those vegan meals--and would still have to do that at Delta since none of...

    It's a step in the right direction by Delta and I love to see it!

    My daughter has been vegetarian since she was in 2nd grade and vegan for the last 3+ years. I'm flexitarian--usually eat vegetarian, but will have meat on rare occasions. I love to see more mainstream recognition of plant-based diets. While I'm perfectly willing to special order those vegan meals--and would still have to do that at Delta since none of these are vegan--it's really great to see non-meat meals treated as a regular choice.

    I note a lot of the comments here are focused on attacking "fake meat" and noting that it is processed and has chemicals. Yet cold cuts are also very processed. Furthermore, meat in the United States is often treated with hormones. I don't think the Impossible Burger is somehow alone in involved processing.

    I also note that two out of the five dishes Lucky listed do not involve fake meat at all. The warm seasonal vegetable plate sounds delightful!
    "Warm seasonal vegetable plate with broccolini, roasted button mushrooms, grilled heirloom carrots, grilled red onions, and roasted cherry tomatoes, served with herb-scented Israeli couscous and a lemon herb butter; available on select flights of 900+ miles"

    I too wish they would offer falafel, but this is a welcome start!

  5. Gray Guest

    I'm not a fan (and no, I'm not a boomer, thanks for asking). I'm not opposed to improving the meatless options, but my concern is that, as someone indicated, there are going to be a cases where it's "Hot fake meat or cold real meat".

    If they went a route that allowed pax to request some sort of (meat-based) protein to go with, I'd be fine. But I also don't see the "Impossible Meatballs" being on par with the "Actual Meatballs".

  6. Abc Guest

    I like original vegetarian dishes instead of fake meat vegetarian. Even though they are completely plant based, these foods are not appetizing to me as they resemble meat products.

  7. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    Just a reminder that these fake foods are NOT healthy. There's more fat and calories in them than real meat.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      There are three kinds (often combined) of vegetarians:

      1. Health
      2. “Animals are people too”
      3. Raising animals wastes resources, is bad for planet

      “Fake” meat is much more attractive to 2 & 3.

    2. Charlie Diamond

      Meat isn’t healthy. Meat made from plants is healthier, but if you want to eat great you have to go with a whole food plant based diet.

  8. Andy 11235 Guest

    I definitely have mixed feelings on this. Of course, it is great to know that there would be a true vegetarian option -- a salad is not a meal. That said, I see very little attractive about the "impossible" fake-meats. As others have said, they are just as unhealth, just as processed as manufactured "real" meat products. I grew up vegetarian, and they just taste very strange to me. It's better than nothing -- Burger...

    I definitely have mixed feelings on this. Of course, it is great to know that there would be a true vegetarian option -- a salad is not a meal. That said, I see very little attractive about the "impossible" fake-meats. As others have said, they are just as unhealth, just as processed as manufactured "real" meat products. I grew up vegetarian, and they just taste very strange to me. It's better than nothing -- Burger King has always offered some sort of vegeburger, and while traveling it's nice to know that is a back-up. I rather feel the same way about this Delta effort: A for effort, and does make me more likely to choose them when there's genuine competition for flights.

    1. Justin Guest

      If you watch an interview with the CEO of Impossible, I don't think this was meant to be a healthier alternative, rather one that is more environmentally friendly.

    2. LarryInNYC Diamond

      Extremely doubtful that it's more environmentally friendly. I can't imagine that the soy monocultures of the Midwest are a better long-term use of the land than the grazing lands of the West, and the need for large factories with high energy inputs to process the mix of soy beans and chemicals into something approximating, in appearance, taste, texture, and nutritional value, the real thing doesn't sound environmentally friendlier either.

  9. James Dorsch Guest

    The choices will never please everyone but at least they are trying to improve life here on this planet. Hopefully more and even better to come. I'm a flight attendant for 38 years+ (not for Delta) and I'm proud of them to have the courage to start to do what's right

  10. LCFA Guest

    Yeah, Ben, please find a new photo of the AA catering.

    Speaking of AA and now DL catering, on a recent post I commented that AA recently sent me a rather comprehensive survey, almost all about catering in the premium cabins for flights 8+ hours and 10+ hours (interesting how the 2 hours differentiate the product, but I guess that's Europe v most other long-haul?).

    Another reader asked me what questions they asked, and my...

    Yeah, Ben, please find a new photo of the AA catering.

    Speaking of AA and now DL catering, on a recent post I commented that AA recently sent me a rather comprehensive survey, almost all about catering in the premium cabins for flights 8+ hours and 10+ hours (interesting how the 2 hours differentiate the product, but I guess that's Europe v most other long-haul?).

    Another reader asked me what questions they asked, and my responses. Frankly I can't remember them all, but what I remember, and the questions were not in this particular order, just what I remember:

    a. Formal timed meals, or dine-on-demand (I selected timed meals...I'm just used to it)

    b. In priority, what's most important to you, choose from:
    - Sleep/relaxation
    - Inflight Catering
    - Lounge Experience
    - Pre departure Drink
    - Pre Landing Meal
    - Other
    (I think think that's how I answered, if I recall)

    c. Pre departure drinks, what do you usually select: sparkling wine, water, juice

    d. What else would you like to see as a pre departure beverage? I completely forget the options, but I distinctly remember clicking on a healthy drink, like the lemon/mint drink they serve on Qatar

    e. Appetizer options, again forget what they asked to be prioritized, but included salads, soups, and other stuff.

    f. Do you know you can pre order a meal? Yes. How important would it be to be able to select meals not actually on the menu (I guess think Singapore Airlines, though I'm sure it would not be that elaborate). I think I chose "moderately important", in a ranking of not important to highly important.

    g. What would be most important when considering main selection options:
    - More protein choices
    - More vegetarian options
    - Choice of sides
    - Choice of sauces for the main
    (one other that I forget)

    h. For dessert, what do you prefer in order of interest (from a given selection):
    - ice cream sundaes
    - cheese plates
    - warm tarts or pie
    - fresh fruit
    - sorbets
    - cheese cake
    - other (suggested a dessert wine)

    i. With the specific example of a DFW-LHR flight (and they even gave flight times), what do you prefer for breakfast, again in order of interest:
    - Continental Breakfast
    - Choice of selections for a Continental Breakfast
    - American "hearty" breakfast
    - British "hearty" breakfast
    - Fresh fruit (this is only by memory)

    So many other questions that I simply forget.

    They they asked about "what's not on the menu that you would like to see". By that point I was tired, so my response was mostly simple:
    - I want a selection of soothing hot teas before going to sleep (think chamomile or mint; and suggestions for how they should be served; also differentiating between Flagship First and Business (I did this with several of the questions; I'm a business person, I understand the need to manage the bottom line), and also a a better selection of coffee/espresso drinks. Also asked for iced coffee, noting it's fine if canned by a quality supplier, as you can't really prepare iced coffee in the air.
    - more sald dressing options
    - I forget the rest:)

    What would you have said?

  11. Carrie Member

    I fail to understand how it is so difficult to serve a fresh salad to which a protein, say cheese, prawn, chicken or rare roast beef, could be added according to each passenger preference. Is fresh, healthy and tasty beyond the budget of most airlines?

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      IIRC, Delta used to offer an added protein option to their pasta option in Delta One on transoceanic flights but they don't do that any more. I agree that it shouldn't be that difficult of an option, even if it is served separately and the customer combines it.

      and there are plenty of non-meat protein options including seeds and nuts that can be quite satisfying when added to the right dish.

  12. Brian-EWA New Member

    Was on a DL flight yesterday from SJD to SEA, and there was one veggie option that wasn't creamy pasta (It was some sort of mushroom panini. Not on the list here in the article, though) I opted for chicken but did see someone get the sandwich (it was warmed, too) and it looked decent. Mostly I was just excited to not be getting the Delta sandwich box!

  13. C. Wesley Guest

    "Not pigs because they are smart." To hell with the rest of them. Would you torture and eat your dog?

  14. Steven E Guest

    I have NEVER seen the product that arrives on your plate look anything like the photograph of what is coming EVER

  15. JS Guest

    "While I’m not vegetarian anymore, I try to be somewhat thoughtful and moderate with the meat I consume. Most frequently I eat fish, while I limit how much beef and chicken I eat."

    Are you kidding me Lucky?? Seriously? If I had a dollar for every burger and fries you order from room service while on your trips/hotel stays (you always post a pic), I could retire today at a very young age!! A...

    "While I’m not vegetarian anymore, I try to be somewhat thoughtful and moderate with the meat I consume. Most frequently I eat fish, while I limit how much beef and chicken I eat."

    Are you kidding me Lucky?? Seriously? If I had a dollar for every burger and fries you order from room service while on your trips/hotel stays (you always post a pic), I could retire today at a very young age!! A burger consists of meat - which comes from a cow. Who are you seriously trying to fool with your absurd statement?? You seem to be kidding yourself with your meat intake over the years.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ JS -- Ford orders burgers, not I (and I don't impose my food preferences and choices on others). I don't remember the last time I've voluntarily ordered a burger.

    2. JS Guest

      I literally spent less than 5 minutes searching and already came across this from your Review: Four Seasons Hotel Madrid: “Lastly, WE had the Rossini burger with foie gras and fries”.

      Not trying to pick a fight - only challenging a statement you made. It just seems somewhat contradictory to me. You feel sorry for the cows and the little piggy’s, but you have no problem eating foie gras?? Do you understand how foie...

      I literally spent less than 5 minutes searching and already came across this from your Review: Four Seasons Hotel Madrid: “Lastly, WE had the Rossini burger with foie gras and fries”.

      Not trying to pick a fight - only challenging a statement you made. It just seems somewhat contradictory to me. You feel sorry for the cows and the little piggy’s, but you have no problem eating foie gras?? Do you understand how foie gras is made? Ya might want to google it if you don’t know. It’s so bad that some countries have literally banned it.

      Again, not trying to pick a fight. I know a lot about food and nutrition and it always amazes me how people justify in their minds how certain things are fine to eat and other things are not. Hope you enjoyed the foie gras! :)

  16. Donna Diamond

    As long as they offer real meat options, I’m okay with this. I would never eat any of this highly processed stuff (have you looked at the ingredients list of Impossible Burger?). If it makes my vegan and vegetarian brothers and sisters happy, great. As a carnivore, hard pass.

    1. Charlie Diamond

      The meat you eat is already highly processed. The animal processes it’s good to turn it into muscle, that a process. If animal meat had to list its ingredients it would be much longer than Impossible (or other brands) and with lots of antibiotics to boot

  17. DCYukon Guest

    Mixed feelings about this. The Impossible products are revolting, as are most plant-based foods pretending to be meat. They are also generally incredibly unhealthy, with high fat, high salt content, which defeats the healthier eating reason that many of us choose to go vegetarian or vegan. Much happier to try other plant-based meals that aren’t trying and failing to be anything other than plants

    1. Mark Guest

      This, a hundredfold. I'm vegetarian because I don't want to eat animals but I've also been that way for long enough (3 decades and change now) that I also don't want to eat meat substitutes - I'll take a cauliflower "steak" prepared with black garlic over anything pretending to be beef, or a decent falafel over those fake "meat"balls. The basic ingredients are cheaper too, so it saves the carrier money.

    2. Charlie Diamond

      There are lots of people who love meat. And providing them with a non-animal source of meat is great for the planet and for animals. You’re not the target for these products if you’ve been vegan for many years and don’t feel like you have to eat meat.
      And they cant be as unhealthy as animal meat so that’s better

  18. Theresa Guest

    I am so happy to hear this. I hope it is very successful and other domestic airlines follow Delta's example. And make some vegan meals available for purchase in economy. I was excited to see Alaska Airlines offer a salad from Evergreens for purchase in economy but then found out it also had chicken in it. If they packaged the chicken separately, I would happily purchase it. There are a growing number of people eating...

    I am so happy to hear this. I hope it is very successful and other domestic airlines follow Delta's example. And make some vegan meals available for purchase in economy. I was excited to see Alaska Airlines offer a salad from Evergreens for purchase in economy but then found out it also had chicken in it. If they packaged the chicken separately, I would happily purchase it. There are a growing number of people eating plant-based, and domestic airlines, until now, haven't offered much of anything. So yeah for Delta!

  19. Rick Guest

    I just recently flew first class on Delta. We had a choice of a veggie, grain salad or an Italian ham sandwich. No hot food. The meals were NOT good. Hope they improve or I’ll be flying with a different airline.

  20. Sean Rogge Guest

    Just had the impossible burger on my flight from LAS to ATL. It was surprisingly good. I was a little disappointed at the options given (cold chicken or a vegetable dish or the impossible burger) but the burger was enjoyable. I recommend pairing it with Woodford reserve on the rocks.

  21. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    Considering this is limited to a handful of airports, this is mostly a nothing burger. Just like the canned wine announcement earlier this year. Many average routes won't get canned wines until the end of the year. I doubt we're going to see these more expensive meals for Minneapolis to Fort Lauderdale or Tampa to Detroit.

  22. Maxi New Member

    Pre-Pandemic United used to offer an AVML meal as a regular option on some longer international economy flights. Loved the option without needing to select it beforehand and jeopardizing the chance of an op-up.

  23. Jerry Diamond

    I can't wait to hear the old male Boomers steaming about their "impossible meatballs" when they're in 4A and they run out of short rib.

    1. Ferse Guest

      How dare you dear sir that you'd think we'd stoop down to short ribs...we prefer actual baby ribs out from the poor people that we think are endangered but because of us are rampant in the areas we never live.

    2. Sel, D. Guest

      I’m a healthy millennial (not a boomer) and wouldn’t eat that processed food product. I prefer natural foods, and would expect that to be an option in first. Also, why only male boomers and not females? I’m curious about your mean spirited stereotyping methods.

    3. Jerry Diamond

      I don't particularly care about vegetarian meals either. The demographic that I apparently was so mean spirited to just seems like the ones who generally feel the most entitled by their status and raise a fuss. Especially on Delta. As for my methods, I'd say they're nonscientific based on frequent observation.

    4. notaboomer Guest

      Pretty sure "most entitled by their status and raise a fuss" is a Millennial - you are off by a few generations.

  24. orflyer Guest

    Happened to be on one of the first flights out of JFK with the impossible meatballs as an option last week and I have to say they were delicious. I was truly surprised at how good they were and would definitely get them again. I'm not vegetarian but kudos to Delta for adding some new "healthier" options that actually taste good.

    1. LarryInNYC Diamond

      Can't argue with the taste issue (haven't tried them). But healthy? The amount of processing and number of chemical ingredients needed to mimic the complete protein of the real thing doesn't sound healthy to me.

    2. AndyPBNYC New Member

      Not to even mention the amount of fat contained in each Impossible burger.

    3. Sergio Guest

      Hey, eating it just only one day will not give you a heart attack and even less a stomach illness (everything in too much is harmful, even eating a lot of fruit, if it is not done in moderation it is bad)

    4. DCYukon Guest

      Definitely don’t read the label if you want to believe the Impossible burger is a healthier option. Very high fat and salt and far too many chemicals.

  25. AA70 Gold

    You need to spice things up by posting a pic of the first class lobster roll too

  26. Alonzo Diamond

    Yay, more sodium. Just what's needed on a long flight.

  27. Ole Guest

    I have never had any issue getting vegetarian meals on domestic first class. I just put in Asian Vegetarian meal option as a special service request. TBH, a small part in me, actually looks fwd to having the Asian Vegetarian meal

  28. DMNYC Guest

    All of these options sound great.

    I've had the Impossible Meatballs in Delta One on JFK-SFO, and they were great. Delicious, good textures, not too much sauce, and smartly and cleanly presented.

    Looking forward to trying some of the others!

  29. Klaus Guest

    When reading the headline I already knew that you will be posting a photo of the „American Airlines first class turkey sandwich“. It seems like you post this photo daily? Not sure if that is an obsessive-compulsive disorder, but you might want to see a specialist? ;)

    1. Mike Guest

      Upon seeing the article I immediately knew that someone will make a comment about Ben’s choice of topics and/or content, but still read the full post.
      Any specialist you can recommend ?

  30. Dr. McFrugal Guest

    Finally! I'm glad more and more airlines our adding more and better plant-based / vegetarian / vegan options to their menus in first class :)

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

LarryInNYC Diamond

Can't argue with the taste issue (haven't tried them). But healthy? The amount of processing and number of chemical ingredients needed to mimic the complete protein of the real thing doesn't sound healthy to me.

6
Alonzo Diamond

Yay, more sodium. Just what's needed on a long flight.

4
Jerry Diamond

I can't wait to hear the old male Boomers steaming about their "impossible meatballs" when they're in 4A and they run out of short rib.

3
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