Beginning this October, 2021, cafeterias at 20 Berlin universities will make their menus 68% vegan, 48% vegetarian, and 4% meat and fish. Mondays will be completely meat exempt, meaning that there will be no meat options available in the canteens on those days. It appears that there’s an emerging demographic of vegan eaters among Germany’s student body. The demand among Berlin students likely prompted the university’s decision to include plant-based options. However, the decision may have also been inspired by the desire to reduce carbon footprints in universities across Berlin.
Its thanks to the work of Studierendenwerk, a student affairs non-profit group, Berlin’s university cafeteria menus have been adding plant-based options over the past year or so. Daniela Kummle of Studierendenwerk told the Gaurdian that “we developed a new nutritional concept mainly because students have repeatedly approached us with the request for a more climate-friendly offer at their canteens”. Kummle says that the success of vegan and vegetarian options in canteens are evidence of transitions in student behavior. It may be fair to say that student’s minds are also undergoing a shift in Berlin.
Why Have Berlin University Cafeterias Dropped 96% of Meat
Greenhouse gas emissions from the production livestock goods, especially beef, are relatively high compared to what it takes to produce plant based foods. Livestock accounts for nearly 15% of greenhouse gas emissions globally; 41% of those emissions are borne from making beef foods.
Globally, generous amounts of farm land space are dedicated to the crops needed to feed dense populations of livestock animals, pigs, cows, chicken, sheep and goat. These animals, being animals primarily herbivorous, have diets that consist of wheat, barely, silage, wheat, oats, corn, seeds and fruits. Our World in Data estimates that 80% of global agriculture acreage is taken up by livestock operations, even though livestock operations generate less than 20% of the world’s consumed calories.
Diets that are more plant based can limit the amount of farm acreage that is allotted for livestock and animal crops. Reducing meat consumption will effectively decrease the demand for animals in agriculture. Also, switching to more plant-based foods could help save water. Fruit and vegetable crops require less fresh water than animal-feed crops. Animal products produce less food per ton of product than fruit and vegetable crops, making the water footprint of animal products higher than that of crop products. In order to conserve water and make better use of farm land, we can rethink our relationship with food and the way we practice agriculture.