Berlin Universities Are So Close to Going Meat-Free

Photo of cook Niko Tortonitis serving vegan bolognese at the Technical University in Berlin, which is now mostly meat-free.

Out with the schnitzels—in with the veggies. In a bid to combat the climate crisis, Berlin universities are on the path to becoming completely meat-free.

Beginning this fall semester, university cafeterias throughout the city will be completely void of meat on Mondays, according to the official website of Berlin. The availability of meat and fish on university menus will be greatly reduced throughout the remainder of the week. Only four percent of all menus will comprise of these offerings, or one menu option per day.

“The new nutritional concept was developed in particular because students repeatedly approached us with the wish to make the food on offer in the dining halls even more climate-friendly,” explained Daniela Kummle of Studierendenwerk, a state-run organization that manages student affairs.

In place of meat, canteens—which are currently only serving food to go in the midst of the pandemic—will offer vegan and vegetarian menu options.

According to Stefan Grob, a spokesperson for Deutsches Studentenwerk, the umbrella organization for all of the local Studentenwerks, there is a growing demand for plant-based foods on campuses not just in Berlin, but across the entire country.

As a result, universities in Germany have increased their meat-free options, offering 30 to 50 percent more vegetarian options than previous years. In 2010, the Free University of Berlin launched a vegetarian-only canteen. Nine years later, it opened a similar cafeteria serving only vegan food.

“The great success of the vegetarian and vegan canteens have made it clear that students’ consumer behavior is changing,” Kummle added. “There’s a clear trend towards fewer animal-based products.”

Photo shows cook Nicole Graf serving a vegan dish of glass noodles and Chinese cabbage at Berlin's Technical University, now almost entirely meat-free.
Around the world, university campuses are going meat-free or cutting back. | Monika Skolimowska/picture alliance via Getty Images

Berlin universities aim to go meat-free

Berlin campuses are the latest to ditch meat for the environment.

In 2016, Cambridge University removed beef and lamb from its cafeteria menus completely, replacing the meat offerings with vegan dishes. The move helped the university to lower its carbon emissions by 33 percent.

In 2019, Helsinki University took beef off the menu at ​​student union-owned UniCafe cafeterias. The school made this effort to reduce its overall carbon footprint. “The idea came from the staff when we were pondering our next socially responsible move,” said UniCafe business operations director Leena Pihlajamäki. “We realized that this would be a way to significantly cut our carbon emissions.”

That same year, Goldsmiths, University of London also announced it would be going beef-free. The decision to cut beef from campus menus was in line with its goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2025. Portugal’s oldest university, the University of Coimbra, also revealed it would remove beef from menus in order to achieve carbon neutrality.