You may be shocked to hear that the Americans in the military hope to see more sustainable food options available in the coming years. This week, the animal rights group Mercy for Animal found that most active service members in the US want plant-based Meals, Ready to Eat (MRE), emphasizing the importance of sustainability in food production.

To conduct the survey, Mercy For Animals questioned 226 active military members from each United States military branch. With the help of survey platform Qualtics and digital insight company Cint, the non-profit gathered information about meal preferences and concerns among the military members. When polled about climate, 81 percent of military members revealed that they want more climate-friendly MRE offerings and 63 percent of those respondents noted how plant-based options surpassed the sustainability levels of animal-based options.

The poll also collected data about the military members’ personal diet preferences. The survey found that 58.4 percent of participants claimed to be omnivores; 23.5 percent of participants noted that they are omnivores looking to cut down on meat consumption; 7.5 percent claimed vegetarianism; 3.5 percent marked vegan; 1.8 percent responded as pescatarians; 5.3 percent identified as flexitarian. The survey took place between January 26 and February 2.

Mercy For Animals conducted the survey when the organization discovered that 83 percent of MREs remain meat-based, despite the growing demand for sustainable, plant-based foods. While 17 percent of MREs cater to vegetarians, there are currently no vegan-friendly MREs for active service members. Now, it is more apparent that military members hope for sustainable, healthier meals in the future.

“Our research suggests service members are aware of the nutritional and environmental impact of their food choices,” Mercy For Animals Social Change Researcher and the Study’s Lead Researcher Courtney Dillard said in a statement. “As the US military continues to seek ways to best support the overall health and diverse needs of its loyal service members, we’re calling on lawmakers to require all branches of the military to provide plant-based MRE options.”

Vegan Progress in the Coast Guard

Although the US military is lacking vegan MRE meals, the Coast Guard has made significant strides in providing plant-based meals to its members. The Coast Guard trainees in Yorktown, Virginia chow down on an impressive selection of vegan meals. Petty Officer 2nd Class Ian Swoveland – a graduate of the Culinary Institute of Virginia - started the vegan meal program.

This May, the Coast Guard facility was awarded the Proggy Award from PETA. The animal rights organization noted that the Coast Guard training center won the award due to its efforts in promoting sustainability and inclusive dining. Currently, the center reports that approximately 20 to 30 members follow a vegan diet.

“From passionfruit panna cotta to Beyond [Meat] bolognese, students at US Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown delight in high-quality dishes that are kind to animals, the Earth, and their arteries,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement last month. “As demand for vegan fare skyrockets, PETA looks forward to seeing every military base progress to offering healthy, compassionate, and eco-friendly foods.”

US Government Actively Looking Into Sustainable Food

The US government may not be actively involved in plant-based eating among the Coast Guard or Military, but the federal government is turning its attention to sustainable food programs. Last October, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) invested in the cell-based meat industry, aiming to promote sustainable food production. The USDA granted Tufts University $10 million to begin developing its National Insitute for Cellular Agriculture, which became the United States’ first cultivated protein research facility.

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