The Meatless Monday campaign just gained America’s protector of natural resources and heritage as one of its latest supporters. The U.S. Department of the Interior is one of Sodexo’s more than 2,000 corporate and government clients, which the food service giant encouraged to adopt its Meatless Monday initiative.
Sodexo announced today that it is all part of the company’s ongoing efforts to boost health and wellness and promote sustainability in the North American communities where it serves as many as 10 million meals a day. The Department of Interior joins several of Sodexo’s well-known clients, such as Toyota and Northern Trust Bank in adopting Meatless Monday.
The non-profit Meatless Monday campaign, which is operated out of New York City, was launched in 2003 with the help of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Center for a Livable Future. The public health campaign was first started simply to reduce America’s saturated fat consumption by 15%, following the recommendations of the Healthy People 2010 report issued by then U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher in 2000.
While reducing potential negative health effects, such as cardiovascular disease, remains a key goal, a few years ago the initiative expanded its focus to environmental impacts of intensive meat production. Those impacts can be quite substantial. Research suggests that it takes 20 times the amount of fossil-fuel energy to produce conventional beef protein than plant-based protein. According to a study out of California, it takes about 2,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. That’s almost ten times more than the 220 gallons water needed to produce a pound of tofu.
A Sodexo spokesperson says the Department of Interior reports that, “the population of customers at DOI is very health and environmentally conscience, so that Meatless Monday is a welcome addition to our program.” In a Sodexo news release, Toyota executive Will Nicklas was quoted as saying, “Meatless Monday has been successful here primarily because Sodexo helps our customers understand that it is not at all about becoming vegetarians or even weight loss, it’s about taking easy steps to guard our health and be good stewards of our environment.” Read More >
The list of Meatless Monday supporters continues to grow across the globe, and surprisingly to some, many of the latest enthusiasts make their living either cooking meat, such as chef Mario Batali or producing it, like rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman. What makes Meatless Monday so successful is its simple and inclusive message which promotes moderation with the goal of improving public health and the health of the planet.
Nicolette and her husband Bill run the BN Ranch in Northern California near the seaside raising beef cattle on pasture and heritage turkeys. Bill knows a thing or two about ranching. He founded the famous Niman Ranch Inc. known for its sustainable and humanely raised meats. Nicolette is a Renaissance woman of sorts—new mom, writer, environmental lawyer, and interestingly, a vegetarian.
I recently was able to catch Nicolette for a few minutes by phone to ask her why she and Bill support Meatless Monday. She made it clear that she didn’t have much time; she was in the midst of a writing project, running the ranch (Bill was traveling) and taking care of her 14-month-old son who I could hear in the background chatting and occasionally clinking the keys of their piano. Knowing that time was short; I got straight to the point:
RL: A lot of people mistakenly believe that the Meatless Monday campaign is promoting the demise of all meat production, while it has always maintained that its message is simply one of moderation and inclusion of omnivores and vegetarians alike. As a rancher yourself, what would you say to any farmer who is threatened by the MM campaign?
NHN: Bill and I are very supportive of the Meatless Monday campaign and here’s why: We think that to really improve the way food is being produced and the way people are eating in this country people should eat less meat but eat better meat. All food from animals—meat, dairy, fish, eggs—should be treated as something special. Anyone who is raising food animals in the traditional healthy way, without relying on industrial methods, drugs and chemicals, is someone who will benefit from people embracing that approach. We think the Meatless Monday campaign is part of a shift in attitudes about meat, towards something that is precious not something that is consumed without thought or in enormous quantities. Read More >