Queerness and Vegan Culture: How Louisville Vegan Jerky Company has found a home in Kentucky’s queer culture

by Sarah Gardiner

Walk into any vegan restaurant and you’re likely to see the two more popular staples of any “alternative”-eatery: faux-meat and queer customers. Such is the case at the Louisville Vegan Jerky Company and former Morels’ new pop-up shops quickly spreading throughout the city.

Vegan and Vegetarianism have always had deep ties to the queer community. Though the intersectionality between “alternative” diets and LGBT+ people dates back decades, it has never been more prominent, particularly within the Kentucky food scene. When studies have attempted to define this connection, empathy comes up as a recurring common factor between the two communities. Whether it is empathy for others and their struggles, animals, or the environment, there continues to be a tie between queer culture and the desire to do as little harm as possible in food consumption.

We talked to Louisville Vegan Jerky Company about this connection and their own space within the queer scene, and the answer was simple: when an organization stands up for what is right, everyone wins. By focusing on safe and open spaces for all, they have created a following of hardcore fans that have propelled their brand to a community rather than a company.

Founded in 2012, Louisville Vegan Jerky Co has since blown up in popularity both within the Bluegrass and on a national scale. With over 40 employees and a huge social media following, they are one of Louisville’s most successful new companies—all while maintaining a diverse and inclusive company culture. And remaining 100% Kentucky based and locally employed. For a vegan startup in hot-brown country, that’s pretty damn impressive.

Much of this success has directly been a result of their unintentionally-focused queerness. They aren’t a company that targeted the “rainbow dollar,” their genuine openness and acceptance just drew us in. When queer people are not made into marketing objectives but rather valued customers, that’s when companies show true social change. And it sure as hell isn’t a common corporate practice.

Inclusivity is a snowball; it starts from the top and gains momentum as it rolls down the company ranks. At Louisville Vegan Jerky Co, one of its most impressive attributes is they way they organically found such a unique and broad identity for their brand. Their mission was simple: bring on talented, accepting, and cool people. That works out well for us, because queer people tend to be talented, accepting, and cool people. A win-win for both Veganism and LGBT+ Kentuckians.

The best part is, hiring queer and diverse people leads to a greater circle of queer employees. Businesses attract the people they welcome, and by being open to diversity within the company, they set a standard for inclusivity that has created a safe space both for employees as well as customers.

The company describes themselves as “unapologetically progressive,” and that can be seen in their individualistic approach to employees and customers alike. They aren’t afraid to do the right thing, and that’s what sets them apart. From ethically sourcing all of their products to paying their employees a living wage, the overlap of ethics and inclusivity is clear. Looking out for the rights of others is inherently queer.

Perhaps Vegans and the LGBT+ community get along so well because we have the same mission: civil rights and humane treatment of all of the life on our planet. At the end of the day, we are just thrilled to have companies like Louisville Vegan Jerky Co that support both.

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