UK public sector caterers have pledged to cut 9 million kilograms of meat from school, university, care home, and hospital menus each year.
Public sector caterers serve billions of meals each year, reaching a quarter of the population The Guardian reports.
The reduction—20 percent of the meat currently served—is a bid to reduce the groups’ carbon footprints. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, animal agriculture accounts for 14.5 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
Last October, more than 60 scientists penned a letter to world governments. They called on schools and hospitals to serve fewer animal products for the environment.
“Eating less meat and dairy in our growing cities is a way to address the climate emergency. Cities can play a crucial role in helping citizens to reduce their consumption of livestock products, and to enable the changes necessary to meet ambitious climate change targets,” said Professor Pete Smith from the University of Aberdeen, who spearheaded the letter.
Cutting Meat and Dairy for the Environment
Last January, the UK Committee on Climate Change recommended that the population cut meat and dairy consumption by 20 percent. According to the committee, this would help the UK cut its emissions to net-zero by 2050.
The #20percentlessmeat pledge was then launched in the trade magazine Public Sector Catering.
“It represents a bold move, because it is not being mandated. It would have been much easier to sit back and wait until they were either prompted or forced into action like this by government,” said David Foad, editor-in-chief of the magazine.
Foad added that the reduction saves the equivalent of 45,000 cows or 16 million chickens.
“The huge range of people we feed every day means we can influence the diet of the nation. I, for one, don’t want to be known as part of the generation that could have acted, even in a small way, but did nothing,” said Andy Jones, chair of the PSC100 group of caterers and suppliers.
Craig Smith, chair of the Hospital Caterers Association, added that clients are already requesting more plant-based food.
Some UK schools are already reducing meat for health and the planet. Last January, 180 primary schools across Leeds adopted meatless meals twice a week.