Brien McMahon Dining Hall at Uconn is following the national trend of de-emphasizing the role of meat in its dishes.
“That goes back to the initiative that Dennis (Pierce) and Rob (Landolphi) have rolled out to offer more plant-based items, here at McMahon we’ve always done that anyways” McMahon’s area manager, Joseph Ferris said.
This is part of Dining Services ongoing participation in the Menus of Change Initiative.
“Managers were assigned the task of committing to three initiatives that align with the Menus of Change Principles,” Director of Dining Services, Dennis Pierce said.
Ferris said McMahon will be introducing a new fish dish this semester in addition to using more greens and cutting back on meat portion sizes even more.
“We’ve added on a couple fish plates to the fall semester and even added on one for the spring semester,” Ferris said.
Ferris said McMahon’s pre-plated entrees usually are based around the starches and greens as opposed to meat.
“Because our food is plated we’ve always made the starch and the vegetable usually the main entity of the plate,” Ferris said.
One of the principles of Menus of Change is to use red meat in smaller, less-frequent portions, which is something McMahon seeks to do in its dishes.
Ferris said McMahon has always de-emphasized meat in their dishes by virtue of being the token international dining hall on campus.
“We do a lot of Asian food here because we are the international dining hall, that’s another reason why we accentuate that a lot because that is just a prerequisite for Asian cooking (the meat) is never the main entity of the dish,” Ferris said.
Ferris said making the meat a less-prominent element of the meal has been a long-term goal.
“This is an ongoing thing we’ve been doing since the day I walked in here, we’ve always tried to make the main protein not the emphasis on the plate,” Ferris said.
The United States is one of the only countries whose cooking’s main substance consists of meat, Ferris said.
“Anyone who is culinary trained realizes that the United States is really one of the only places you’ll go where the meat will be the main entity of the plate,” Ferris said.
Ferris said he has observed an evolution in the food service industry over the past few decades to de-emphasize meat in dishes.
“People are beginning to understand the health implications of a lot of proteins and people are realizing the ecological effects of it and people are understanding the cost of a protein is so much more than the cost of a vegetable,” Ferris said.
Growing plants is more ecologically efficient than raising animals, Ferris said.
“It costs more and requires more ecological resources to raise meat than plant products,” Ferris said. “You can feed more people with an acre of rice than with an acre of beef.”
Ferris said he believes the food service industry as a whole is going to continue following the trend of using meat less prominently in dishes.
“I’ve seen the industry go in that direction and nowhere but that direction for the past 20 years and is it going to continue to go in that direction? My guess would be yes,” Ferris said.
Ferris said he believes the increased health consciousness of the younger generation has driven this change.
“The young generation (is) coming into their own and demanding what they want to eat and seeing those changes even more prevalent in this (collegiate) environment,” Ferris said.
People often look to the younger generation to see what is up-and-coming, a philosophy that is applicable to the food service industry Ferris said.
“You know what they say, if you want to know where we’re going look at the young people and see what they’re doing because that’s what’s going to be coming up next,” Ferris said.