The environment’s got beef with beef. And UCLA finally seems to be catching on.
Last week, the Hill’s Covel Commons dining hall began serving blended burger patties that are 70 percent beef and 30 percent plant matter, such as red beets, red quinoa, onions and mushrooms, in its signature burger.
Covel’s substitution reduces – at least in some capacity – UCLA’s contribution to carbon emissions often associated with traditional burgers. Beef’s large carbon footprint stems from the resources needed to feed cattle, the land cleared for grazing, the methane cows produce and the energy needed throughout the production and shipment process of beef products.
UCLA Dining Services’ new patty is laudable given these numbers, but it isn’t groundbreaking. Rather, the meat of the problem lies in the rest of the food thousands of Hill residents consume. Dining Services can make notable dents in its contribution to carbon emissions by implementing Meatless Mondays, where no meat is served at any of the dining halls, and educating students of the benefits of a sustainable diet.
The blended patties represent just one switch UCLA has made to promote a more environmentally friendly meal plan. The Bruin Plate dining hall, which opened in 2013 and offers more vegetarian and vegan options than other dining halls, is often the most high-trafficked dining hall for lunch and dinner. All dining halls also participate in Beefless Thursdays, where they refrain from serving beef products to educate students about the health and environmental impacts of beef products.
UCLA clearly has the resources to regularly provide meatless dishes and still retain student traction. Any effort to reduce meat with more plant-based recipes contributes to a global effort to reduce greenhouse gases, and implementing Meatless Mondays feasibly builds on UCLA’s sustainability efforts while making a notable impact in shrinking Dining Services’ carbon footprint.
It’s worth pointing out Bruin Plate piloted a similar program to Meatless Mondays in May 2015 once a week for dinner. Dining Services found students ate more meat the next day, and a university spokesperson said participation at Bruin Plate decreased by about 50 percent on these days. In order to encourage sustainable and healthy meals, Dining Services later instituted “Green Mondays,” which requires one station at each dining hall to offer all non-meat options during lunch and dinner every Monday.
But ramping up education efforts to explain the value of lowering meat consumption would encourage students to want to participate in fighting climate change once a week and help UCLA achieve its sustainability goals, as opposed to viewing the whole affair as forced vegetarianism. Moreover, meat options would still be available at grab-and-go restaurants on Meatless Mondays, making the change less invasive to students’ diets.
Everyone is responsible for implementing dietary changes to ensure the planet’s longevity. Meatless Mondays simply and feasibly lower UCLA’s carbon footprint – one veggie burger at a time.