By Rebecca Cummins-Lanter
As sustainability coordinator for the cafeteria, I am responsible for the Meatless Monday/Local Line Tuesday initiative whose controversy has taken over the cafeteria’s comment board. I first suggested doing Meatless Mondays because I heard that it has been successful in 30 other colleges as well as at many other business locations. I have heard many requests for local food, and in the fall a petition for local foods and higher quality meat received 500 signatures in two days. This seemed like the perfect solution.
Meat is more costly than vegetables or grains, both financially and environmentally. Cutting meat out of your diet one day a week reduces your carbon footprint by the same amount as switching from a car that gets 22 mpg to a car that gets 50 mpg for a year.
If that seems far-fetched, think of a biological energy pyramid: every time food is consumed, only 10 percent of the energy is transferred to the consumer while 90 percent is lost as heat. This means that it takes ten times as much food to sustain a secondary consumer (humans eating meat eating plants) as it does to sustain a primary consumer (humans eating plants).
Now, maybe you read about the ecological benefits of Meatless Mondays and didn’t care, but anyone who has ever done a taste-test of free range meat versus standard meat knows that the difference is huge.
Local food is also great for the Michigan economy, which needs all the help it can get. For people like me who love meat but have qualms about the way that animals are raised in factory farms, free range meat is a conscionable alternative. Or maybe the idea that less gas is used to transport your local food appeals to you. Any way you look at it, Local Line Tuesdays are a great tradition to have in our dining services and it won’t cost extra money because of Meatless Mondays.
Students of Kalamazoo College, I want to thank most of you for taking the time to understand the Meatless Monday/Local Line Tuesday initiative and give it a fair chance. I hope that those who oppose it will give the information board a more thorough reading next time before making inaccurate attacks on this policy.
For instance, Stacks will still serve meat on Monday during dinner, despite many comment cards complaining of “forced vegetarianism.” It is also worth noting that eating meat every single meal except Monday dinners is not vegetarian.
And contrary to melodramatic comments like, “I will have to hunt squirrels to survive on Monday,” eating meat every meal is actually quite unhealthy and largely responsible for weight problems in this country. Most meat-eaters – even athletes – get three times as much protein as they need. And if you are offended that the cafeteria is making decisions about your personal health, consider how the hundreds of us who want healthier food feel each time we are required to eat in the cafeteria where the choice for unhealthy foods has largely been made for us.
Finally, to those that intelligently oppose Meatless Mondays, I am most disappointed in your lack of willingness to communicate. Students volunteered to table last week in order to hear complaints and suggestions from unhappy students, and not a single discontented individual gave any such feedback. Sodexo wanted the first Meatless Monday to be a trial to encourage unhappy students to take part in adjusting the initiative to reflect their desires. If the level of maturity of these objectors is such that all they can do is write profane comments anonymously in a drop box then I struggle to see how their anger at being ignored is justified.