The food service sector is playing a positive role in improving the way animals are treated in American agriculture. Whether by establishing policies to eliminate the confinement of calves in veal crates, mother pigs in gestation crates, or hens in battery cages, or to vastly improve the lives of broiler chickens and to stipulate more humane slaughter practices, the companies making up this industry have embraced animal welfare as a core and necessary value for their businesses. It’s precisely because there is such strong consumer demand for meat and other products that these companies can play such a big role in insisting that animals on the farm are treated in ways that reflect humane sensibilities.
These companies are also promoting healthier eating, and giving their customers food options that are pleasing to the palate, good for the planet, and invigorating for personal health. In recent weeks, we’ve teamed up with Compass Group, the world’s largest food service provider, and Aramark, the largest U.S.-based food service company, in this regard. We’ll be working on menu and recipe development, marketing strategy, and concept creation, like Compass’s Rooted in Good Taste, an all-plant-based dining station that The HSUS helped to develop. It’s going to launch soon at university accounts across the country.
The HSUS’s Forward Food Culinary Experience offers full-day trainings and will teach Compass and Aramark chefs to create delicious plant-based options. These in-the-kitchen classes and train-the-trainers programs will influence thousands of chefs responsible for millions of meals a day.
This approach to institutional meat reduction started a few years back when the University of North Texas (UNT) opened the nation’s first all-vegan dining hall to serve some of the 36,000 students at its campus. Dining officials at the school, Ken Botts and Chef Wanda White (who are now working on this program for The HSUS on a nationwide basis), kept hearing from students that they wanted more vegan options. They took an underperforming dining hall, revamped the menu, redesigned the space, and the Mean Greens dining hall was born. In a remarkable twist of fate, the national trend concerning plant-based foods in university dining halls began just 30 miles north of the Fort Worth Stockyards.
Whether it’s to be more environmentally friendly, improve student health, or reduce the suffering of animals, universities nationwide are participating in programs like Meatless Monday and putting more plant-based foods on the menu. Tens of millions of meals that would have been derived from factory farms now center on healthy, plant-based ingredients at these universities. The HSUS initiated its first two-day, hands-on culinary training at Harvard University where it trained chefs in cooking plant-based breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts. Since that training in 2015, we have done 77 events, training 1,700 chefs at universities and hospitals across the country.
After a training event at American University, the school launched a vegan pop-up restaurant on campus, as did the University of Pittsburgh. Inspired by the HSUS program, chefs at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, flipped a vegetarian station to a plant-based station they named Pitchforks, quadrupling lunch sales. Villanova University launched VEG: Villanova Eats Great, featuring vegan options for every meal. The HSUS team trained New York University chefs and helped them create an entirely plant-based menu for the week of Earth Day 2017. It’s not just happening on the coasts either. Chefs at Northwestern launched Meatless Monday. And just last month, our team trained the culinary team at Northern Iowa University where the team intends to add more of the new plant-based recipes to the fall menu.
Our Forward Food campaign is helping to connect customers with food, and making sure that consumers have the option to eat in ways that are better for them, the planet, and for animals. We’re reminding people that plant-based eating is hardly a sacrifice, but a fabulous culinary experience and an opportunity to do good for yourself and the planet.