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Advocating Less Meat, Better Meat

Farm Forward’s Leadership Circle champions a “less meat, better meat,” strategy for the schools, businesses, and other institutions that serve hundreds of millions of meals in the U.S. each year. Developed by Health Care Without Harm, the “less meat, better meat” framework can help institutions reduce their use of animal products overall (“less meat”), while at the same time sourcing the animal products they do serve from higher-welfare, more sustainable sources (“better meat”).

The Leadership Circle supports institutions sourcing “better meat” by connecting them with certified higher-welfare and environmentally sustainable farmers. By doing this, we help the growing network of certified higher-welfare farmers find markets for their products. For example, Farm Forward helped the University of Denver connect with and source Global Animal Partnership Step 5 chicken from Boulder Natural Meats. Although the Leadership Circle program only launched in October 2017, our “better meat” commitment has already improved the lives of more than three million animals raised for food.

Given these accomplishments, why focus on “less meat” as a critical component of the Leadership Circle’s approach? Part of the answer is economic: because animal products typically cost more than plant-based protein1, buying a lower volume of animal products allows institutions to save money. Those savings can be reinvested in better-quality animal products. Shifting dollars away from industrialized farms and toward higher-welfare farms supports small- and medium-sized family farms, which often struggle to compete in a market dominated by a handful of large agricultural companies. By shifting consumption to animal products raised by smaller, higher-welfare farms, we help build a sustainable farming movement that can be part of a solution to factory farms.

Reducing our consumption of animal products provides broader benefits for animal welfare, human health, and the planet. The U.S. raises over 9 billion animals for food each year2, and nearly 99 percent spend most or all of their lives confined in factory farms.3 Consuming fewer animal products usually translates to consuming fewer animals, which reduces overall animal suffering.4

Eating less meat and more plants is also recommended for better health and increased food security.5 Most American adults eat roughly twice the recommended amount of protein each day6 and consume more saturated fat and sodium—both present in conventional meat and poultry—than is optimal for health.7 Switching from a diet high in animal products to one featuring more plants is broadly recognized as better for human health.

Lastly, the high emissions of food animal production mean that reducing our consumption of animal products is critical if we are to limit the severe and irreversible consequences of climate change associated with a global temperature rise of  2° C or more.8

For animals, our health, and the stability of our planet, it is imperative that we eat less and better meat and other animal products. The effect of influencing meals eaten in institutions cannot be overestimated; more than 1/3 of every dollar we spend on food goes to foodservice establishments.9

Please support our efforts to reduce animal product consumption by donating to Farm Forward’s Leadership Circle program.



S. Poppick. “Here’s How much Money Vegetarians Save Each Year,” Time Magazine, Oct 8, 2015, accessed March 7, 2018 here.


USDA Livestock Slaughter 2016 Summary, April 2017, accessed March 7, 2018 here.


Farm Forward calculation based on U.S. Department of Agriculture 2012 Census of Agriculture, accessed June 2014.


B. King, “Does Being Vegan Really Help Animals?,” National Public Radio, March 12, 2015, accessed March 7, 2018 here.


2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. “Scientific Report,” United States Department of Health and Human Services. February 2015, accessed March 7, 2018 here.


S. Egan, “How Much Protein Do We Need?,” The New York Times, July 28, 2017, accessed March 7, 2018 here.


United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services, Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020: Chapter 2. 2015, accessed March 7, 2018 here.


B. Kim, R. Neff, S. Santo, J Vigorito, “The Importance of Reducing Animal Product Consumption and Wasted Food in Mitigating Catastrophic Climate Change,” Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, December 2015, accessed March 7, 2018 here.


U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, Food Prices and Spending, updated Sept 15, 2017, accessed March 7, 2018 here.