With veggie burgers, veggie dogs, sweet-and-sour tofu and vegetable-and-tofu chow mein on the menu, the Utah Department of Corrections has ranked on animal rights group PETA's top 10 list for vegetarian friendly prison systems.

"Prison food has traditionally gotten a bad rap, but you won't hear many complaints from vegetarians and vegans who are serving time in Utah," the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said in a statement Tuesday.

"Whenever you see convicted criminals turning away from a violent animal-based diet, it's a good sign," PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich said in the statement. "We commend Utah for helping to protect its inmates' health and deeply held beliefs."

PETA said Utah ranks sixth on its top 10 list, which pushes for every state to mandate vegetarian options for prisoners. First place went to Idaho, which offers a menu that includes lentil shepherd's pie, vegan pizza, soy sausage, vegan hotcakes, and other vegan cookies, pies and puddings. Massachusetts, PETA said, offers fare like mock-chicken nuggets and vegetarian chicken stew. Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Tennessee, Kansas and North Dakota were all listed in PETA's top ten.

Utah Department of Corrections spokeswoman Angie Welling said the prisons at Draper and Gunnison have offered meat-free meals for about a dozen years now and the cost is roughly the same as any other diet. About 200 of the 4,800 meals served daily at the prisons are vegetarian or vegan.

"We offer the meatless alternative diet to anyone who requests it," she said Tuesday.

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com