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Vegetarian prisoners eat well in Idaho

BOISE – PETA has given a surprising first-place ranking to Idaho, a place few would consider an animal-rights haven given its distinction as one of just two states where dogfighting still isn’t a felony. But in this case, it’s vegetarian food behind bars that’s winning Idaho praise.

“PETA researched which states are doing the best job meeting their prison inmates’ hunger for meatless meals, and the results are in,” the group announced Wednesday. The group, whose full name is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said Idaho has the most “vegetarian-friendly state prison system.”

Not that the prison cuisine is getting rave reviews. “When the meals cost 90 cents each, you can’t do much with that,” said Idaho prisons spokesman Jeff Ray.

A typical lunch at an Idaho prison, Ray noted, is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a bologna sandwich, a piece of fruit and a cookie. Idaho prisons eliminated hot lunches nearly a decade ago in a cost-saving move.

What won praise from PETA was the choice of menu options, including pork-free, ovo-lacto vegetarian, vegan and other choices. Inmates can sign up each month for a special diet choice, whether it’s for religious or health reasons or just their preference.

Among the prison dishes PETA has taken note of: “Lentil shepherd’s pie, vegan pizza, soy sausage, and veggie meatballs and an assortment of vegan cookies, cakes, pies, and puddings.”

Washington didn’t make PETA’s top 10, so the group didn’t give the state a rank for its prison veggie options.

“They’ll just have to work harder and provide more options so they can make it next year,” said spokeswoman Lindsay Rajt.