The Balanced Menus Initiative is a two-tiered approach for hospitals to reduce their meat and poultry purchases, and invest their cost savings in sustainable meat options. The reasons for committing to Balanced Menus are profound and compelling. Most hospitals buy substantial amounts of meat, typically through large distributors who source from the U.S. commodity beef, pork, and poultry markets. Significant costs are associated with industrialized meat and poultry production and distribution, including antibiotic resistance, air and water contamination, and global climate change through methane and transportation emissions.
Americans eat more than twice the global average for meat consumption. Hospital food service operations often mirror this trend. Reducing the overall amount of meat served in hospitals provides health, social, and environmental benefits that are consistent with prevention-based medicine. Hospitals can deliver an important preventive health message to patients, staff, and communities by reducing the amount of meat and poultry they serve and by purchasing sustainably-produced meats as an alternative.
We challenge hospitals to commit to Balanced Menus, achieve a 20% reduction in meat and poultry purchases, and then to invest the cost savings in sustainable meat options. This commitment serves as a pathway to serving the healthiest, most sustainably-produced meat available, and helps protect our climate and the environment. It is also an opportunity for hospitals to model nutritionally-appropriate portion sizes for patients, staff, and visitors.