Navy to test vegan meat on at least 2 US bases

The US Navy may soon test a three-year pilot program that will put plant-based meat on soldiers’ menus, especially in areas where animal meat is expensive and hard to find. The pilot program is part of a provision recently added to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023 (NDAA). Submitted by House Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), the provision states that this program would begin by March 1, 2023 and should include at least two naval bases.

The provision says to prioritize bases “where animal protein options can be expensive to obtain or store” and suggests candidates such as Joint Region Marianas in Guam; Navy Support Installation Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean; and US Fleet Activities Sasebo in Japan.

Considering global inflation and the costs of exporting perishable goods to island regions, the implementation of this program can be a cost reduction solution. The provision states that plant-based meat will be an option at these naval bases but could be served with meat of animal origin.

After the three-year period, the Navy will prepare a report for submission to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. The report will share learnings from the program on the rate of vegetable protein consumption at selected naval bases; a cost analysis that compares obtaining and storing plant-based proteins versus meat from livestock; and effective criteria for increasing plant-based meat options at other naval facilities.

Military wants plant-based meals

The development comes after a survey by animal rights group Mercy For Animals (MFA) found that a majority of US service members want access to more plant-based options, especially ready meals ( or MRE).

From January 26, 2022 through February 2, 2022, the MFA surveyed 226 active duty members of various ranks and from all branches of the U.S. military and found that 81% wanted access to vegan MREs, despite the fact that the majority of them did not identify as vegan. The survey revealed other dietary information about active service members, including that 63% of them would choose a vegan MRE if it were available.

“Our service members deserve plant-based food options while serving our country,” MFA federal policy officer Frances Chrzan said in a statement. “Military generally eat MREs when food sources or cooking facilities are limited, such as in combat. Currently, they have no choice and must accept EMRs containing animal products, although 63% of respondents in our survey said they would choose plant-based EMRs if they had the possibility. »

The MFA survey showed service members had positive associations with plant-based meals, with most saying they found them to be healthier and better able to boost their energy levels than plant-based meals. animals. The majority of respondents also indicated that plant-based meals were more climate-friendly.

The availability of plant-based meals, however, does not match soldiers’ desire to eat them. Currently, 83% of MREs are meat-based and 17% are suitable for vegetarians but not vegans. Although completely plant-based MREs are not currently widely available, MRE suppliers are able to create special meals for Humanitarian Daily Rations that accommodate “various religious and dietary restrictions around the world.”

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Offer vegan meals to soldiers who want them

Although the MFA survey was limited in size, the impact of its findings could lead to greater access to plant-based meals within the US military. Indeed, in addition to Slotkin’s naval supply, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) has proposed an amendment to the NDAA that will explore plant-based MREs within the U.S. military as a whole.

The amendment requires the Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency to produce a report that includes a study of service member preferences, a feasibility study on plant-based MRE production, and a proposed plan to create and offer herbal MREs to active service members. This report must be submitted by September 30, 2032.

“This is an important step toward providing our service members with plant-based options, and we’re excited to see Congress consider greater food self-sufficiency for our service members,” Chrzan said. . “Mercy For Animals will work with the military to ensure that the report required by this amendment is released next year.”

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