In Texas, a state famous for meat-heavy cuisine like barbecue and Tex-Mex, more students than ever before are making the conscious decision to ditch meat in favor of plant-based cuisine. At Mean Greens, the only completely vegan dining hall at the University of North Texas, it is estimated that 80 to 85 percent of diners aren’t vegan or vegetarian – they just happen to love the flavor and healthy choices.
“We do not serve any animal products. So you will not get chicken, you will not get beef, you won’t get milk or eggs in this cafeteria,” chef Matthew Ward, general manager of Mean Greens, told CBS DFW. “We take pride in what we do here on a daily basis.”
According to the official website, Mean Greens serves a wide variety of flavorful vegan options ranging from salad to seitan, a plant-based meat made from wheat protein, made-to-order paninis, pizza, waffles, tofu scramble, and desserts like dairy-free soft serve ice cream. All ingredients are carefully sourced, with some coming right from the college dining hall’s own hydroponic garden. Designed to grow fresh, local vegetables without soil, the vertical farm helps the school to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions from transport trucks and water usage. The farm yields about 800 heads of lettuce per week and uses an average of one gallon of water per day.
university students want vegan food
Students have positive things to say about the food offered at Mean Greens. “All this food is healthy. You’ve got the tofu. You’ve got the cauliflower. You’ve got the Brussel sprouts,” said one student.
“It’s the first time I’ve not had to worry there’s meat or anything on my food. Like, I feel safe eating it,” another student added.
The positive comments from students echo the results of a survey conducted last August by Aramark, one of the nation’s leading food service providers. According to the company, 79 percent of members of Generation Z, or people born in the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, are interested in eating meatless at least once a week. Those surveyed cited the health benefits of plant-based food as the main reason for cutting back on meat consumption. As a result, food service providers such as Aramark, Sodexo, Sysco, and other, smaller companies are incorporating more vegan food into college dining hall menus.
Students are also becoming increasingly conscious of the welfare issues present in the industrial animal agriculture industry. According to a survey conducted in the UK, 54 percent of Gen Zers believe that factory farming is “unfair” to animals. More than half of university students in the UK also reported interest in adopting a plant-based diet.
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