Plant Based for our Animal Friends
Morrison Healthcare and the Humane Society of the United States
When Morrison Healthcare and Compass One Healthcare originally decided to offer more plant based meals at our facilities, we were focused on healthcare. We were learning about the Power of Food™ , and how healthy, delicious meals are part of the healing process.
We know, for example, that 52% of U.S. consumers are eating more vegetarian foods—and they believe it makes them feel healthier. Vegetarians live an average of four years longer than carnivores. We also realized, thanks to data, that many people are more open to trying plant based meals when they are in a hospital setting, simply because they are thinking about their health. We wanted to provide them with the tastiest introduction to vegetarian cuisine possible, during this window when they are open to trying it.
We couldn’t do it alone, however. That’s why we joined forces with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) ten years ago, to help us create more healthy, delicious, plant based recipes to serve at healthcare facilities across the country.
“There are many great reasons to incorporate more plant based foods into your diet,” says Lauren Pitts, Registered Dietitian and HSUS National Food & Nutrition Program Manager. “For the animals, for your health, and for the environment. Swapping a traditional chicken dish for chili-rubbed cauliflower tacos, pulled jackfruit enchiladas, or pumpkin spice french toast with cranberry orange relish is not only the healthier, more sustainable option, it spares animals from suffering on factory farms.”
While Morrison and Compass One were focused mainly on health benefits to human beings, HSUS is also deeply committed to caring for the least of us—the factory-farmed animals that often end up on our plates. The Humane Society also educated us about the environmental benefits of a plant based diet. For example, if everyone in the U.S. went meatless just one day per week, it would save the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as taking 500,000 cars off the road.
HSUS showed us that the Power of Food™ is even more powerful than we originally thought. Plant based diets don’t just build healthier bodies, they build a better world.
The Human Society knows that it takes more than just data to convince people to eat more plant based foods, however. You also need flavor. That’s why HSUS has a dedicated food and nutrition team, which includes culinary specialists and registered dietitians across the country. They bring their expertise, as well as local knowledge, to many tables. Today, they are collaborating with Morrison on more than 60 new plant based recipes, while rolling out a training program for Morrison Healthcare staff that will begin early 2020.
During the hands-on culinary trainings, Morrison Healthcare team members will not only learn to prepare these recipes, they will be educated on the benefits of serving different types of foods for their customers and patients.
“Over the past four years, the HSUS and Compass have been working together to provide more plant based dishes on their menus,” explains Josephine Morris, HSUS Food Policy Manager. “We’re excited to build on our long-standing relationship to provide even more healthy, animal-free options for Morrison.”
Why Should You Consider a Plant based Diet?
The American Institute for Cancer Research has done the research and it “shows one thing very clearly: we all need to eat more plants and less meat.”
Improving your health is a great reason to choose roasted butternut squash tacos over a chicken burrito. Focusing your diet on more whole plant based foods and fewer animal products has been shown to reduce risk for the most common chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eating more meat-free meals can prevent and even treat disease.
The proof is in the numbers. Just ask Heather Farkas, Morrison’s Corporate Wellness and Sustainability Support Manager. When she adopted a plant based diet, her LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) dropped 50 points!
Soon, Morrison Healthcare’s new plant based recipes will be available nationwide, helping our patients and caregivers make better choices for their health without sacrificing flavor or comfort. Customers will be able to simply select a plant based option.
“Introducing new plant based dishes in a healthcare environment can be challenging,” explains Lauren. “There are more regulations, and patients’ special diets can be complicated. Healthcare providers want to offer healthier food because they care about their patients. When they know how much better plant based comfort foods are for their customers, they recommend them.”
Here at Morrison and Compass One, we are already doing so.
How Do Plant Based Diets Help Animals?
Compass and the HSUS have spent the past decade creating and implementing welfare standards that improve the lives of animals used in food production. As a result, Morrison is transitioning to source only cage-free eggs in 2020, and will procure only healthier, slower-growing chickens by 2024.
“The announcements to free hens and pigs from cages were trailblazing at the time. Now it’s about implementation, to ensure the animals live better lives and customers can trust that their [foodservice] provider is living up to its pledge,” says Josephine.
Inside factory farms, mother pigs are kept in cages so small they can’t turn around. Chickens are bred to grow so quickly, and so large, that their legs often break, and some suffer heart attacks at just weeks old. Calves are taken from their mothers when they’re just a few days old so humans can drink their milk.
Most of us don’t support the needless cruelty inflicted on factory farmed animals, but it’s easy to ignore—and seems almost impossible, at an individual level, to change.
That’s why the HSUS works with companies like Morrison and Compass, to make changes on a truly meaningful scale. We and their other corporate partners help extend the HSUS’s reach, giving them the buying power they need to reduce the consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy, while lowering the number of animals suffering in factory conditions.
Plant based foods are one of the most powerful tools HSUS has to achieve this goal.
How Can Larger Companies Help Protect Animals by Advocating for Plant Based Recipes?
While a commitment to eating more plant based meals is an individual decision, only large corporations and government institutions can scale the improvements to our health, culture, and communities to a national level. Morrison and Compass One are committed to doing our part, both by raising awareness of the Power of Food™ and by serving tasty, meatless options to anyone considering a change to their own diets.
Today, Americans eat more meat than almost anyone in the world—125 pounds per person, per year, more than three times the global average. If every US citizen committed to a plant based diet, our nation’s farms could feed 350 million more people, says a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It’s not just crops being wasted to feed animals rather than people. A pound of beef uses up to 26 times more water to produce than a pound of soy protein.
US factory farms also produce three times as much waste as the nation’s human population. Greenhouse gasses from factory farms alone are responsible for as much as 28% of global climate change-related emissions—more than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, buses, trains, ships and planes in the world combined.
That’s where big companies like Compass One come into play. Eating a plant based burger rather than a beef burger uses 99% less water, 90% less land, and generates 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, according to the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems. One person choosing the veggie burger makes a difference. When large foodservice providers like Morrison choosing to offer veggie burgers makes that decision possible.
“Right now, we’re developing fantastic recipes for Morrison,” says Lauren. “We focus on the culinary because at the end of the day, if the food doesn’t taste good, people won’t want to eat it. We’re really excited about embarking on this new partnership in 2020, bringing new, mouthwatering, out-of-the box recipes to Morrison.”
“It’s not about depriving anyone,” Helen Harwatt, animal law and policy fellow at Harvard Law School says. “We’re reimagining food.”
Learn more about a plant based diet.