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This year’s National Week Without Meat & Dairy will take place from Monday, 7 March until Sunday, 13 March (weekzondervlees.nl). The UvA supports this initiative, because we believe that daily meat consumption is a thing of the past. However, we’ve decided not to remove the entire range of meat products from our campuses this week. Why not? Allow us to explain.

Our range of food and beverages on campus is gradually changing to include less meat

We’re gradually transitioning towards the consumption of more plant-based and fewer animal products. This process is also referred to as the ‘protein transition’. This is our way of contributing to the fight against waste and greater food security for all. The goal for 2026: 50% of all food consumed on campus is vegetarian or vegan (e.g. salads, sandwiches or snacks).

Forcing people to make certain choices can actually have an adverse effect

While 50% by 2026 may not be fast enough for some, studies show that forcing people to change their purchasing and eating habits doesn’t lead to real change. In some cases, this can even have an adverse effect. When asked how they would feel about this, many people told us: ‘I’ll just get a kroket at the snack bar around the corner then’ or ‘I can just order online’.

Real change can only be achieved by encouraging alternative choices

We must motivate and encourage people to change their eating habits by communicating about food, healthy nutrition and sustainable production. We’re obviously also influencing those choices by offering more and more plant-based products and reducing the range of animal products. Our measures are designed to accommodate the wishes and freedom of choice of our students, staff and visitors. We also discuss our product selection and the timing of specific changes with the companies who run our catering outlets. After all, we need to be mindful of these independent entrepreneurs’ ability to hold their own against nearby competitors. The faster the food outlets around us transition to alternative forms of protein, the faster we can move forward on campus.

Education on and research into the protein transition and its pace

‘How can we prepare the catering outlets on campus for the future?’ and ‘What’s the most effective way of influencing the choices of our students, staff and visitors?’ Facility Services is currently researching these issues in cooperation with several other parties. Our Enjoy Today food community platform offers students and staff the opportunity to share experiences and ideas. The platform’s dashboards offer detailed insights into supply, demand and sales results. We use these data to monitor the latest developments.

The Psychology for Sustainable Cities research group (AUAS) has been working to explore feasible and effective behaviour and decision-making modification strategies. After all, our target group may be highly conscious of the issues, but ‘knowing’ doesn’t always translate into ‘doing’.

In the second half of 2021, we conducted pilot projects on several campuses. We increased the range of available vegetarian and vegan products significantly to assess the resulting impact on sales. The results of these pilot projects should be available soon and will help us determine which products to roll out across multiple locations within which time frame.

Finally, we’d like to mention two successful 100% plant-based innovations:

At several locations, we’ve installed coffee machines that use oat milk instead of regular milk to make cappuccinos or hot chocolate. Responses have been so positive that we’re rapidly rolling these out more widely. The range of food and beverages catered at meetings, lunches, receptions and events is also vegetarian by default, with meat options offered as an alternative.

Want to find out more about the protein transition at the UvA?
Contact Mees Ham.