Helsinki University is taking beef off the menu to lower its carbon footprint.
Starting February, all UniCafe cafeterias owned by the school’s student union will drop beef dishes from their lunch menus. Beef will also be removed from café items such as sandwiches and wraps, Yle reports.
According to UniCafe’s calculations, removing beef will reduce its food-related carbon footprint by 11 percent, the equivalent of 240,000kg of CO2 carbon dioxide annually. The university serves around 11,000 meals a day, with beef accounting for 15 percent of the meat served.
“The idea came from the staff when we were pondering our next socially responsible move. We realized that this would be a way to significantly cut our carbon emissions,” explains UniCafe business operations director Leena Pihlajamäki.
Beef will be replaced by other animal proteins — chicken and pork — as well as vegan and vegetarian options. Ylva, the company that handles day-to-day operations at Helsinki University’s cafeterias, aims to increase sales of vegan and vegetarian meals to more than 50 percent by the end of next year. Meat-free meals currently represent 40 percent of sales.
Pihlajamäki believes the goal is within reach. Plant-based proteins will be placed at the start of the cafeteria’s self-service counters, making them the first option students will see. “It’s proven that this is one of the most effective ways of doing it,” she said.
Is Beef Sustainable?
Several other universities have removed beef from the menu in order to lower their carbon footprint. According to a June 2018 study from the journal Science, beef generates six times more greenhouse gases compared to plant-based protein like peas.
Last August, Goldsmiths, University of London, announced a beef ban as part of its goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2025. The University of Coimbra, Portugal’s oldest university, will remove beef from its menus by January 2020. It also aims to become a carbon-neutral school in the next 11 years. It currently serves around 20 tonnes of beef annually.
Cambridge University removed replaced beef and lamb with vegan dishes in 2016. According to a recent report, the school has reduced its carbon emissions per kilogram of food by 33 percent.