The bill specified that the Navy should prioritize forward operating bases “where livestock-based protein options may be costly to obtain or store.”
The US Navy could soon have servings of Beyond Burgers or Gardein at a number of forward bases.
The provision was added to Section 222 of the annual defense policy bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by the House last week.
According to the amendment, the Navy must launch a pilot program for offering “plant-based protein options at forward operating bases for consumption by members of the Navy.”
The bill specified that the Navy should prioritize forward operating bases such as Guam, Japan, and Joint Region Marianas for the program, or similar places “where livestock-based protein options may be costly to obtain or store.”
While plant-based protein is not only healthier and sustainable, it is also more affordable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation has reached a 40-year peak of 9.1% over the past 12 months. While soaring energy prices are a major factor driving the climbing costs, meat prices have skyrocketed in comparison to other food items, climbing more than 15% year over year.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Michigan Democrat who served at the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Defense before she was elected to Congress in 2019.
While the intent is clearly to incorporate alt-meat protein sources, the bill noted the Navy is allowed to offer “livestock-based protein options alongside plant-based protein options.”
The program is intended to run for three years, following which the secretary of the Navy will submit a report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.
The report will provide an insight on the consumption rate of plant-based protein options by the sailors during the pilot program; effective criteria to increase vegan meat offerings at other Navy bases; and a comparative analysis of the costs to buy, store and serve the plant-based protein versus those for regular meat.
Vegan meals win the battle
The move to incorporate more plant-based foods follows a growing interest for more sustainable foods for health, environment and ethical reasons.
According to a recent survey by activist group Mercy for Animals, 81% of military members wanted more access to vegan foods, even though only 3.5% of 226 troops surveyed said they were vegan.
In addition to demand for vegan ready to eat (MRE), military members and trainees have been enjoying vegan meals at the Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown in Virginia thanks to Second Class Petty Officer Culinary Specialist Ian Swoveland who joined the Yorktown facility in 2017.
Swoveland initiated a plant-based program during the COVID-19 wave at the facility after lockdowns prevented students to leave the base for vegan meals. Around 10% of the troops identified as vegan at the time.
Led by Swoveland, his team of culinary specialists and student cooks created and served curated vegan meals – which turned out to become so popular that it attracted more diners than just the vegan students.
The program also earned Yorktown a “Proggy”—which stands for “progress”—award from vegan charity PETA earlier this year.
“From passionfruit panna cotta to Beyond Bolognese, students at US Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown delight in high-quality dishes that are kind to animals, the Earth, and their arteries,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a release.
“As demand for vegan fare skyrockets, PETA looks forward to seeing every military base progress to offering healthy, compassionate, and eco-friendly foods.”
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