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The University of Cambridge has revealed that it has slashed its food-related emissions – by ditching beef and lamb.

Since October 2016, the university’s catering service replaced the red meat with plant-based products, leading to a 33 percent reduction in carbon emissions per kilogram of food purchased, and a 28 percent reduction in land use per kilogram of food purchased.


The move was part of a bid by the university to be more sustainable. In addition to ditching beef and lamb, it has also stopped serving ‘unsustainable’ fish, improved the availability of plant-based options, and stopped selling single-use plastic bottles.

“Sustainability is extremely important to our students and staff and we wanted to ensure that we were not only responding to their needs, but pushing what was considered possible in a catering environment,” said Nick White, Head of the University Catering Service.

“This has involved making sacrifices, but is has been absolutely the right thing to do. It’s about making the right choice easy.”

‘Dramatic reduction’

“The University’s catering managers have, in a very short time, dramatically reduced the environmental footprint of their operation by removing ruminant meat from its menus, lowering food waste and eliminating unsustainably harvested fish– while simultaneously increasing sales and profit,” said Andrew Balmford, Professor of Conservation Science at the University of Cambridge.

“It is hard to imagine any other interventions that could yield such dramatic benefits in so short a span of time.”

‘Is there beef in that?’

“If you go to most restaurants, they’ll put a “V’ for vegetarian or label something as vegan,” added Catering Manager Paula White. 

“We didn’t do that, we just put what’s in it. You use your eyes, your nose. If you look at something and think ‘Wow, that looks good’, you’re not first of all thinking ‘Is there beef in that?’”

Dishes on offer included aubergine rogan josh and butternut squash lasagne. The university still serves chicken and pork.

Maria Chiorando

Maria is a news and features writer for Plant Based News. As a former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle. She was previously the editor of Plant Based News for over 3 years.