Beef and lamb ban slashes Cambridge University carbon emissions

New strategy has seen profits rise by 2% while reducing the environmental impact of Cambridge University’s catering teams

Cambridge University has cut carbon emissions by 11% with a ban on beef and lamb on its menus.

In October 2016, the University Catering Service (UCS) launched a sustainable food policy which removed red meat and unsustainable fish from its menus, reduced food waste and promoted plant-based alternatives.

In three years, overall carbon emissions have been reduced by 10.5%. The strategy has led to a 33% reduction in carbon emissions per kilogram of food purchased and a 28% reduction in land use per kilogram of food purchased.

Despite the menu changes, profits have risen by 2% since 2014/15.

It is hard to imagine any other interventions that could yield such dramatic benefits in so short a span of time
– Prof Andrew Balmford

Nick White, head of the UCS, said: “Sustainability is extremely important to our students and staff and we wanted to ensure that we were not only responding to their needs, but pushing what was considered possible in a catering environment.”

“This has involved making sacrifices but is has been absolutely the right thing to do. It’s about making the right choice easy,” White said.

Read more: Cambridge University commits to zero carbon emissions by 2048 

The UCS’s policy – Our Sustainable Food Journey – applies to 14 outlets across the university and more than 1,500 annual hospitality events.

Prof Andrew Balmford, professor of conservation science at the University of Cambridge, advised the writers of the strategy.

“The university’s catering managers have, in a very short time, dramatically reduced the environmental footprint of their operation by removing ruminant meat from its menus, lowering food waste and eliminating unsustainably harvested fish – while simultaneously increasing sales and profit,” he said. “It is hard to imagine any other interventions that could yield such dramatic benefits in so short a span of time.”

UCS say they “nudged” consumers to choose sustainable options by changing food labels and placing vegan and vegetarian options in prominent places. Single-use plastic bottles have been replaced by glass, cans or biodegradable bottles, saving over 30,000 bottles from landfill a year.

The UCS also agreed to send chefs and catering managers to vegan and vegetarian cookery classes.

The full report is available to read at

Picture credit: Flickr, Scudamores. 

Got a news story for UB? Contact James Higgins on 0117 300 5526

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