Delft University has announced that the restaurants at its Architecture faculty are going fully vegetarian. Should WUR follow suit? If you ask me, we can come up with something better than just banning meat, and this is the moment to talk about that, with WUR working on a new ‘Food & Beverage’ vision and the existing catering pretty much at a standstill thanks to Covid. So let’s imagine what a canteen 2.0 might look like when everything opens up again.
To start with: we can certainly learn something from Delft for our canteen 2.0. We should look seriously at ways of taking sustainability further and not be afraid of radical change, even where the meat options are concerned. But we mustn’t reduce sustainability to meat and the climate. What about other animal products, and plant-based products with a big environmental impact? Consequences for biodiversity? Labour conditions in the supply chain? The health aspects of all these products? Waste? Sustainability is a constant search for answers, which are rarely simple – as we in Wageningen know only too well. We have fervent proponents of organic farming and fierce critics of it. People who are all for in vitro meat, and people who are working on the revival of forgotten legumes. And so on and so forth.
‘A canteen where the WUR community could continuously put forward ideas’
How nice it would be if we got a canteen 2.0 that put this search for answers in the forefront. A canteen where the WUR community could continuously put forward ideas so that the food on offer reflected the broad, slowly evolving palette of sustainability strategies. So that you find futuristic in vitro meat, those neglected legumes, and meat from robust circular-farmed cows side by side. So that you are repeatedly forced to think things through on various fronts: not just climate, not just biodiversity, not just labour conditions. And to talk these things over with other people time and again, always putting your own convictions up for discussion. And to choose the lunch that best fits your own priorities. Maybe the fast-growing broiler chickens will then disappear from the canteen in time, and maybe there won’t be much demand for that circular beef. But I think we’ll benefit more from this approach than from focusing so much on meat that we think that one big step – banning meat – is all we need to do.
Vincent Oostvogels (25) is in the first year of his PhD research project on biodiversity restoration in the dairy farming sector. He dreams of having a few cows of his own one day.