The “less meat, better meat” conversation is becoming a key topic in the sustainable food world and among consumers. This is important, and potentially driven by, the mounting research about the environmental (and social) impacts of animal products.
For the hospitality industry, it is important to consider these ethical issues, while keeping in mind that most end consumers – the guests – are still going to want some meat products, at least some of the time. New polling and consumer research has shown that the numbers of vegetarians and vegans hasn’t changed much in the past 5 to 10 years. What has changed is the increased interest (and sales) in plant-based foods and the number of people saying they want more plant-based options.
Better for the Environment
Reducing animal-based products is also one of the best ways a foodservice provider can reduce their environmental footprint. Project Drawdown, a science-based organization listing the best solutions for carbon reduction, places plant-based diets as the 4th best option for reducing carbon emissions. Plant based diets have lower water footprints as well.
There are three approaches that can be taken here, and the good thing is that they can all be taken together:
Offer Vegetables and Plant Based Food as Main Feature
The simplest approach is offering dishes where vegetables/plants are the main feature. These can be fully vegan (not containing any animal products like milk, cheese, eggs) or vegetarian.
Plant-Based Meat Substitutes
Another approach is opting for plant-based meat substitutes, which are becoming very trendy. Items such as the Beyond Burger – which customers have access to through Avendra – are great options for guests looking for an alternative to animal products, with the feel of a conventional burger.
Reduce Meat Portion Sizes
The third approach is still offering meat but reducing portion size while increasing quality as well as environmental, social and welfare standards. This last approach would still satisfy consumers looking for conventional meat-based plates, while still appealing to the increasing number of consumers that want a little less meat on their plate and are requiring higher health and sustainability standards.
The “less meat, better meat” approach is also being used to upsell certain dishes, giving this approach another important business case for implementation. Although possibly paying more for higher quality (and ethical standard) animal products, if a foodservice provider is able to slightly reduce the quantity while charging more for the dish, the end result would be higher margins on those dishes. Avendra Consulting Services can assist with identifying ways to use certain products to gain better margins on your menus.
What Are Better Meats?
“Better” meats are ones that are produced with higher social, environmental and animal welfare standards. Although the industry has a lot of work to do, there are many good options available and these are some of the things you can look for (as well as market once you procure).
- Products with no (or responsible) antibiotic usage – for poultry products, raised without antibiotics is becoming easier to find.
- Products with higher animal welfare standards – the most commonly known is cage-free eggs, but look for 3rd party certified humanely raised poultry, beef and pork.
- Look for products that come from farms that use organic farming methods, or higher sustainability standards such as regenerative agriculture. Look for products that come from farms/companies that are doing better in terms of manure management, water conservation, and energy use.