Courtesy of Jessica Kwong '18, owner of Jack & Friends.

The Road Less Traveled Leads to Vegan Jerky: An Interview with Jack & Friends founder Jessica Kwong ’18

With graduation looming, the frequency of nosy questions about post-graduation life from parents, friends, friends of parents and parents of friends far and wide reaches its peak. “What are you doing after graduation?” Is a question every senior dreads answering, but for Jessica Kwong ’18, the question brought on an entirely new crisis: Accept the return offer for one of the biggest snack companies in the world or start from scratch building her very own company? She eventually decided on the latter, and Kwong declined the job offer in favor of creating what would eventually become Jack & Friends in March 2019, a plant-based jerky line with jackfruit as a main ingredient.

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What if the World Went Vegan?

Although mention of the word “vegan” can bring up disturbing images of proselytizing protestors armed with signs and graphic visuals of animal cruelty, people often overlook the environmental impacts of reducing their consumption of animal products. Prof. David Wolfe, plant science, revealed his insight on the crippling carbon footprint of the meat industry, and what a plant-based diet would entail for the environment. “A lot of the major meat producers in this country are coming from fairly large operations and corporate farms [where] the carbon footprint is quite a bit higher,” Wolfe said. “The animals are all confined in one place —  it could be very far away from where the crops are grown and are then transported to feed the animals.”

According to Wolfe, the excessive amounts of fossil fuels utilized in the production and transport of these crops alone have a significant environmental impact. Ruminant animals, like cattle, have the added detriment of methanogens — microbes required for digestion that release methane, a notorious greenhouse gas.