Berlin University Cafeterias Remove Meat from Menus to Reduce Climate Change

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: Plant-based meals at Berlin universities

Overview: University cafeterias in Berlin are making their menus primarily plant-based in an effort to protect the environment. 

Location: Berlin, Germany

Population: 3.6 million

Food policy category: Climate change, nutrition

Program goals: To reduce carbon emissions produced by the meat industry. 

How it works: Starting in October, the 34 cafeterias serving students at 20 Berlin universities will become primarily meat-free. Only one meat option will be offered on four days of the week, with Mondays being completely meatless. The menus will be 68 percent vegan, 28 percent vegetarian, and only four percent containing meat or fish. 

Examples of vegan and vegetarian meals on cafeteria menus include:

  • buckwheat and spelt bowls topped with grilled sweet potatoes, marinated beetroot and sesame seeds
  • pasta bakes with tomato and cheese
  • marinated soy strips in curry
  • vegetarian dumplings
  • vegan vegetable stew with coconut milk and red lentils
  • chickpea and quinoa bowl with vegetables and chia seeds.

Progress to date: The student support group Studierendenwerk spent the last one and a half years revising the cafeteria menus to respond to student demands for more climate-friendly options. 

Why it is important: The livestock sector produces 14.5 percent of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. If the world’s population shifted to a plant-based diet, greenhouse gases from food production could be reduced up to 70 percent by 2050

Climate change is detrimental to the world’s food supply, as rising temperatures and natural disasters threaten crops and livestock. Reducing meat consumption is one small way that humans can reduce climate change and protect the environment.  

Program/Policy initiated: The new plant-based menus will be in effect for the next school semester starting in October, 2021. 

Point of contact: N/A

Similar practices: The University Catering Service at the University of Cambridge implemented a Sustainable Food Policy in 2016, which eliminated red meat and unsustainable fish from cafeteria menus. By 2019, the University Catering Service had reduced overall carbon emissions by 10.5 percent and there was a 33 percent reduction in carbon emissions per kilogram of food purchased by the company. 

Evaluation: Formal evaluation has not yet been conducted, but the student response to the menu changes has been largely positive. In 2019, a survey showed that 13.5 percent of Berlin students followed a completely vegan diet, while another 33 percent were vegetarian. 

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