While the SRA is not pushing a vegan charter, the message is loud and clear that menus need to be much less meaty. Will Nicholson of FCRN speaks for his colleagues in academia when he calls on chefs and operators to play a more proactive role in leading this change. He says:
Henry Dimbleby believes consumer demand will continue to drive change. He says:
Chefs need to be doing more to persuade their carnivorous customers to try something different by, as Professor Tim Lang of City, University of London, puts it: “making their less ‘meatified’ dishes simply delicious”.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall agrees wholeheartedly: “We shouldn’t be making veg dishes just to keep vegetarian and vegan customers happy. We should be tempting the carnivores to give veg a try.”
As well as making veg-led dishes look and taste delicious, chefs need to take time to ensure they sound delicious too. In fact, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says that when it comes to creating new menus, he spends more time on the language used to describe plant-based dishes than almost anything else.
While the language and make-up of menus as well as creative techniques to replace meat with veg are all effective ways of reducing consumption, some are convinced that these gentle nudges are insufficient and that more drastic action is required. Certainly, adding a salad here and a soup there, will not suffice. Much greater action is required to persuade punters of the pleasure of plants.
An Oxford University report published in October 201812 made the case for a tax on meat to prevent 220,000 deaths and $40bn a year. It would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 110m tonnes a year, the authors contend. Green MP Caroline Lucas has offered her support, but, is a lonely voice among politicians aware of the potential backlash.
The SRA believes that immediate collective, concerted and creative action by foodservice on this issue negates the need for taxation, for now.
For those in the industry anxious that they won’t be able to fulfil the change required, there are some words of encouragement from Prof. Valentini that it is within their grasp. He says:
In 2018 the World Resources Institute (WRI) launched the Cool Food Pledge, a new initiative designed to help operators meet diners’ desire for more planet-friendly food, while “slashing food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% 2030”. The SRA fully supports this initiative and its aims. We’ll use our platform to align our members and the wider industry with the Cool Food Pledge, providing businesses with a series of commitments complemented by a programme of inspiration, insight and support, backed through resources and events.