April 18 is the start to Earth Week, and one of the beginning events will be a meat-free dinner. At the College, we are proud of the sustainability initiatives undertaken by Dining Services that contribute to the health of both people and the environment. We would like to join with Dining Services in taking the next step.
Meatless Mondays is a movement that numerous other institutions and colleges have adopted on a weekly basis, and we hope that this dinner can be a pilot meal. A meat-free dinner will provide an opportunity for students to explore the taste and nutritional benefits of healthy alternatives to the resource- and emissions-intense production of conventional, industrially raised meat. It will also give students a chance to come together to learn about balanced alternatives to a meat-based diet, and to consider the trade-offs involved in everyday food choices. The need to eat meat every day is part of an unsustainable food culture, and one meat-free meal can be the impetus for a conversation about the impacts of this food culture. This is a chance to step out of our comfort zones while understanding that complete protein sources will be adequately provided.
Conventionally raised meat is a resource-intense protein source. Twenty pounds of grain are needed to make one pound of beef. The grain requires environmentally draining inputs such as vast amounts of water and nitrogen fertilizer. Eating less meat is one way that an individual can make actual change to their carbon footprint. A second advantage of eating less conventionally raised meat is the health benefits. Cows are meant to eat grass; that is what their digestive tract evolved to eat. The stomach of cows that eat corn turns more acidic, so E.coli bacteria can survive in the stomachs, reside in manure and stick to the hides contaminating the meat during processing. If cows on feedlots were fed a diet of hay or grass for just a few days before slaughter, 80 percent of the E. coli in their gut would be passed. Wouldn’t you like to eat meat that is safe? Cows that are routinely fed hormones and antibiotics mixed into their feed are not healthy or safe and should be avoided.
We hope that Dining Services will take this opportunity to be a leader in sustainable college dining nationwide and to lay the foundation for even greater strides towards an environmentally and socially conscious food system. If the College had a meat-free day once a week, the overall carbon-footprint of our institution as a whole could dramatically decrease. Eating a meat-fee diet is not the only way to have a positive change on the environment, but it is one option. Please join us in celebration of a meat-free dinner on April 18.