Navy To Begin Testing Plant-Based Meals

US Navy Hat

A three-year pilot program to serve soldiers plant-based meat may soon be put to the test by the US Navy, especially in locations where animal-derived meat is expensive and difficult to obtain. The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act just incorporated a clause that includes the pilot program (NDAA). This initiative would start by March 1, 2023, and would need to include at least two Naval bases, according to a clause put forth by House Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-MI).

The clause mentions sites including US Fleet Activities Sasebo in Japan, Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, and Joint Region Marianas in Guam as candidates for prioritizing bases “where livestock-based protein options may be costly to obtain or store.”

Implementing this approach can reduce expenditures due to global inflation and the cost of exporting perishable items to island locations. The clause states that plant-based meat will be an option at these naval bases, although it may be offered alongside meat that was produced using animal products.

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees will receive a report that the Navy has compiled when the three years is up. The report will outline key takeaways from the program, including the percentage of plant-based protein consumed at the chosen naval bases, a cost comparison of obtaining and storing plant-based protein versus meat derived from livestock, and practical guidelines for expanding the availability of plant-based meat options at other naval facilities.

Wanting more plant-based options

This development follows a Mercy For Animals (MFA) survey that revealed that the majority of US military personnel want access to more ready-made plant-based meals (or MREs).

Despite the fact that the majority of them did not self-identify as vegan, the MFA interviewed 226 active duty service personnel from all levels and branches of the US military from January 26, 2022 to February 2, 2022, and discovered that 81 percent of them requested access to vegan MREs. Other dietary information about active service members was discovered by the study, such as the fact that 63 percent of them would select a vegan MRE if it were offered.

“Our service members deserve plant-based food options while serving our country… Service members usually eat MREs when food sources or cooking facilities are limited, such as in combat. Right now, they have no choice and have to accept MREs with animal products, even though 63 percent of respondents in our survey said they would choose plant-based MREs if given the option,” MFA Federal Policy Manager Frances Chrzan said in a statement.

According to the MFA survey, military personnel had favorable perceptions of plant-based foods, with the majority saying that they were healthier and more effective in boosting their energy levels than animal-based foods. Most respondents also mentioned that plant-based meals were more environmentally friendly.

However, the availability of plant-based meals does not match the appetite for them among soldiers. Currently, 17 percent of MREs are suitable for vegetarians but not vegans, and 83 percent of MREs are meat-based. MRE suppliers can make unique meals for Humanitarian Daily Rations that satisfy “diverse religious and dietary restrictions from around the world,” despite the fact that entirely vegan MREs are not yet readily accessible.

Serving those who want vegan options

Despite the MFA survey’s small sample size, its results potentially increase the availability of plant-based meals for US military personnel. That’s because Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) also proposed an amendment to the NDAA that will examine plant-based MREs inside the US military as a whole, in addition to Slotkin’s naval provision.

According to the amendment, the Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency must produce a report that includes a study of service members’ preferences, a feasibility study of the production of plant-based MREs, and a suggested strategy for developing and providing plant-based MREs to serving personnel. The deadline for this report is September 30, 2032.

“This is an important step toward providing our service members with plant-based options, and we are thrilled to see Congress considering more dietary autonomy for our service members… Mercy For Animals will work with the military to ensure the report required by this amendment is released next year,” Chrzan said. 


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