The 49-year-old daughter of Paul McCartney has become an adviser and investor to Green Monday, a start-up that encourages people to eat less meat
She says her mother Linda wanted to be a voice for animals, and would be so happy about how many people her vegetarianism inspired
Photographer and food writer Mary McCartney has been announced as an adviser and investor to Green Monday, the Hong Kong-based social enterprise geared towards encouraging people to eat less meat.
The 49-year-old daughter of musician Paul McCartney and animal-rights activist Linda McCartney, a lifelong vegetarian who died in 1998, has long advocated for a meat-free diet, but said her latest appointment represents a stepping up of her efforts out of concern for the livestock industry’s negative environmental impact.
“The reports are getting more immediate. The call to action is now,” she said during a visit to Hong Kong as her new role was announced earlier this month. “Rather than being completely overwhelmed and daunted, it’s the way to help if you want to eat less meat. What I love about Green Monday is that it’s quite a straightforward idea. One day a week is very doable.”
Mary, along with her father and sister Stella, are the faces of the UK arm of the global Meat Free Monday campaign, which, like Green Monday, extols the benefits of giving up meat just one day a week for both improved personal health and lower environmental impact.
When considering the McCartney family’s legacy, it is Paul’s musical career that is likely to be regarded as the most influential worldwide. However, it was Linda’s popularisation and promotion of a vegetarian diet during the ’90s that laid the foundations for one of the defining food movements of the 21st century.
In 2019, meat substitutes are big news. But before Silicon Valley and investors turned their attention to lab-grown meat, burgers that bleed and other foods that increasingly blur the lines between what is perceived as animal or plant-based, there was Linda McCartney Foods. The brand was a collaboration between Britain’s earliest celebrity vegetarians and Ross Young’s, a shrewd frozen-food manufacturer working ahead of the curve. Together, they would launch one of the most successful celebrity food brands to date.
On her mother Linda: Established in 1991, Linda McCartney Foods produced a meat-free food range, one of the first to launch in the UK. It reimagined hearty British staples like pies, sausages and burgers in a range that has since expanded to include sausage rolls, shredded hoisin “duck”, pulled “chicken” and “fish” goujons.
The ingredient that gives the products their distinctive meat-like texture is textured vegetable protein, a chewy substance extracted from soy that remains a popular meat substitute to this day. The brand was an instant hit in the UK, with sales of £12 million by 1992; now, the range is the second largest British meat alternative brand, after Quorn, with sales of £26.7 million (US$34.9 million).
“She did it because she was passionate and wanted to be the voice for animals,” McCartney says of her mother, who died of breast cancer in 1998. “She cooked for people and they’d say, ‘If I could eat like this I would eat a lot more vegetarian,’ so she did a cookbook then a food range.”
Although the brand has changed hands multiple times – it is now owned by US food company Hain Celestial Group – the McCartney family is still involved in its product development and promotion. Earlier this year, to coincide with “Veganuary” – during which people become vegan during January – the company released an advert directed by Mary titled Kindness Forever. McCartney also runs the food blog P for Peckish, and has launched two of her own cookbooks alongside the The Meat Free Monday Cookbook she co-authored with her father and sister. Earlier this year, a vote in the European parliament led to the ruling that only products containing meat could use terms like “sausage”, “burger”, “steak” and “escalope”. The decision to protect meat-related terms and names “exclusively for edible parts of the animals” was opposed by NGOs such as Greenpeace who argued it would be a setback for sustainable food.
McCartney rolls her eyes in exasperation at the news. “Growing up vegetarian, people were always like, ‘Why do you want to have a burger? Why do you want to have sausage or mince?’
“Because a burger is a shape and I’d like to have a barbecue. Just because I’m a vegetarian doesn’t mean I can’t have a burger – a burger can be made with meat or a variety of different things. A sausage is a shape. The protein you choose to use is up to you. If you don’t want to do that, you can do vegetable stir fry or use lentils and beans. There are a lot of options.”
Along with their father, Linda’s three children have continued Linda’s work; her ethos is a binding thread throughout each of their careers. While Mary furthers the family’s message worldwide with her latest Green Monday role, Stella has put sustainability at the heart of her eponymous luxury brand, and youngest sibling James McCartney has woven vegan activism into his career as a musician. Though vegetarian options may have diversified greatly since the launch of Linda’s sausages, her daughter often hears how her mother’s food range was a lifeline for vegetarians growing up in meat-eating households and still represents an inexpensive option for anyone trying to go meat-free in an easy way. “People grew up on her. People come up to me now and say, ‘If it wasn’t for your mum’s sausages I would have starved growing up,’” she says. “It would make her so happy – how many people she inspired. It’s about inspiring people. It’s food. It’s a way of eating.”