At every level—at dinner tables, in corporate boardrooms, in the halls of government, in university cafeterias and other institutions—decisions made within and about food have major implications for animal welfare, human health and the environment. And when it comes to animals, it’s about the choices we all make— every day—for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
When we look at the big picture, we not only see just how large an impact even one meal has, but we can see more clearly the transformational power of the largest food service companies. This industry sets the menus at tens of thousands of schools, colleges, corporate headquarters, stadiums and public venues, where millions of people eat. That's why we’re working so hard to encourage decision-makers at all levels in the food service sector to offer more plant-based meals and to help them reach defined target goals in reducing their use of animal products.
Our goal is to see that half of all meals offered in food service throughout the United States be plant-based within five years. With an estimated 1.5 billion animals used for meat, eggs and dairy by the food service industry every year, this means we will save over 2.5 billion animals from suffering by the end of 2027.
Our annual 2023 Protein Sustainability Scorecard helps consumers determine which food service companies in the U.S. are actually pursuing a forward-thinking, compassionate and animal-friendly agenda. Over the last two years, we have worked with a number of food service companies to reduce the amount of animal products they serve in venues across the country. At least seven of these companies have committed to transition to at least 50% plant-based menu offerings by 2025.
These company commitments suggest that the HSUS Food Service Innovation team has helped increase plant-based menu offerings in this sector by some 15% in less than three years. Self-reported data collected before our direct engagement with the industry began show that plant-based entrees on menus once stood at 7%; now, some 22% of all menu entrees are plant-based.
Beyond working with companies to secure these bold menu commitments, our team works to ensure the successful development of delicious plant-based offerings through culinary training events involving our chefs. Chipotle sweet potato and tofu tacos, thai tempeh fried rice, red bean Swedish meatballs, mushroom lentil bahn mi burger and carrot cake cupcakes: You can’t believe what’s coming out of those workshops, and best of all, you can make some of these tasty dishes at home, too.
We have been working with many of the country’s largest educational institutions to drive the same shift in offerings. In this market sector, too, we’ve achieved significant commitments to shift to plant-based menu offerings, in the range of 10% to 50%. And we’ve had the chance to work with some amazing chefs who understand what’s happening in the food services landscape and have risen to the challenge of developing plant-based options for the institutions they serve.
It amounts to this: We are facilitating real change in the food industry as more and more food service providers implement and meet critical target goals to address their impact on animals and the environment. And for the consumer, the college student or the occasional visitor to an institutional or corporate cafeteria, it’s simply a new world, a better world, one in which it’s getting easier to align their food choices with their convictions about animals, the environment and their personal health.
Of course, there is still so much to do. Among other things, we have to monitor the progress of food service providers in this arena. If companies and food service operations tout their sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions reduction pledges but articulate no public goals and targets for increasing their plant-based offerings, it undermines confidence in their commitments. Or, even worse, it can come across as a form of greenwashing.
One constant factor in this industry works in our favor. Customer demand goes a long way in motivating the food industry to adopt changes that are better for animals, human health and the environment. Moving the industry in the right direction directly depends on our individual choices. Each of us can do our part daily by actively choosing to reduce our consumption of inhumanely produced animal products, select higher welfare products for our shopping carts and replace animal products with plant-based options. Those choices will move us rapidly forward toward a more humane world. And from the perspectives of taste, experience and nutrition, they’ll be among the best choices we’ve ever made.