The Tyson Foods chicken-processing plant, wedged between Maine Medical Center and Mercy Hospital in Portland, experienced a COVID-19 outbreak in April and was shut for three days, mirroring infections at its other plants around the country.

But arguably the biggest animal-based food story in Maine this year was when state investigators found that a dairy farm in Fairfield had contaminated the groundwater, its neighbors, its cows and their milk with the toxins known as forever-chemicals. The contamination comes from sewage sludge, often laced with industrial waste, spread on the farm fields for years. Maine continues to allow the controversial sludge-spreading on conventional farms, though the practice is banned on organic farms. 

Two all-vegan Maine eateries opened in 2020 before the pandemic hit and met different fates. Robin’s Table in Biddeford opened just days before the lockdowns began and didn’t survive the closures. However, in Presque Isle the all-vegan County Roots bakery and market opened about a month before the pandemic struck and survived; it continues to serve vegan sandwiches, scones, chocolate chip cookies and doughnuts. 

A selection of Lovebirds’ vegan donuts. Photo courtesy of Lovebirds

Speaking of doughnuts, the all-vegan Lovebirds in Kittery earned a spot on PETA’s list of the top vegan doughnut shops in the country, while Holy Donut owner Leigh Kellis launched a vegan cookie company called Sweet Sea Cookies. The cookies are being made by vegan-friendly Baristas + Bites, which closed its Old Port shop because of the pandemic but now sells its vegan cookies on Goldbelly and soon on Williams-Sonoma. 

Bam Bam Bakery shared its gluten-free, vegan chocolate cake recipe on Good Morning America in 2020, while the Miss Portland Diner was one of just 30 diners across the country to be the first to serve the new Impossible breakfast sausage. Monte’s in Portland made vegan pop tarts, Bueno Loco in Falmouth made chocolate vegan avocado cake and Grand Central in Waterville made vegan rainbow pizza during Pride Month.

Maine VegFest took place online in November, and Little Lad’s, a popular vegan food wholesaler based in Corinth, said it plans to open a retail store in that town.

Should community suppers ever return, perhaps more will follow in the footsteps of the First Universalist Church in Yarmouth, where the menu at local food supper hosted in February included vegan pot pies. 

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. Reach her at 

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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