Seattle Children’s raises the bar on better meat

Buffalo Chicken BLAT Wraps (Marco Verch)

Seattle Children’s, a Practice Greenhealth member, has been a long-time leader in the movement to protect medically important antibiotics as well as reducing climate impacts through the procurement of sustainable products. Recently the facility hit a record percentage of meat raised without routine antibiotics served after making the switch to “antibiotic-free” bacon and chicken strips.

Food service operators often have an especially difficult time transitioning crowd favorites such as these due to changes in taste and texture. The food service department reports that several blind taste tests were conducted and surprisingly the antibiotic-free products were the clear winners.  Michael Shelton, Seatle Children’s procurement manager, remarked, “Four years ago we had a terrible time finding affordable products that actually taste good. Thankfully the industry has come so far that the switch was easier than we anticipated.”

The switch was not without challenges and cost was the biggest barrier. In order to make the budget work staff chose a creative approach. The department decided to produce a high volume of grab-and-go snack items in house saving over $90,000 annually on pizza alone. Gina Sadowski, Seattle Children’s food service director, explained that the switch allowed the facility to save enough money annually to make room in the budget for the antibiotic-free items and also allowed the department to have more control over quality and sustainability of the ingredients. “We hope in the future to be able to include more sustainable meats into our grab-and-go items since we now have more freedom to use the ingredients that meet our standards.”

Now 68.3% of the department’s total meat budget is spent on antibiotic-free meats and they don’t plan to stop there. They plan to increase this percentage while also decreasing the total amount spent on meat, decreasing meat portion sizes, and increasing the amount of plant-based proteins on the plate. Seattle Children’s recently signed the Cool Food Pledge and plans to work collectively with institutions across the globe to reduce overall meat consumption and slash food-related greenhouse gas emissions while serving delicious plant-forward meals.