Meat of the Matter: A Municipal Guide to Climate-Friendly Food Purchasing

The research behind this report suggests that shifting institutional food procurement away from meat and dairy products and towards plant-based options would significantly reduce GHG emissions, and is more sustainable. Eating more plant-based foods is considered essential to meeting climate change goals - as well as plant-based foods offer quantifiable health and environmental benefits. This guide offers tools, strategies, and guidance on how cities and counties can advance climate-friendly food procurement. It provides step-by-step planning support for how municipalities can successfully implement climate-friendly and health-promoting policies and practices for food purchased by public institutions (e.g., hospitals, schools, childcare centers and correctional facilities) and served on municipal property (e.g., in airports, sports stadiums, parks, museums and office buildings).

According to the report, food production accounts for about one fourth of global greenhouse gas emissions, and meat and dairy products account for more than half of those emissions. Research suggests that the world cannot meet GHG reduction targets without slowing the consumption of animal products. (And, the United States consumes 2.6 times more meat than the global per capita average.)

A few of the key findings around the climate impacts of food, as described in the report include:

  • Americans are over-consuming meat, which is contributing to heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and billions of dollars in health care costs associated with these maladies.
  • Water resources are at risk from climate change impacts. Meat and dairy production has a harmful impact on water quality and uses substantially more water resources than plant-based foods.
  • Food waste is a substantial contributor to food-related greenhouse gas emissions. Serving more plant-based foods and smaller portions of meat and dairy will help cut waste from animal products, which account for an outsized portion of total emissions associated with food waste.

Part II of the report provides a step-by-step guide to climate-friendly food procurement for municipalities, presented in six steps under 2 phases.

Phase I: Pass a climate-friendly food procurement policy and/or standards

  • Step 1: Establish a working group
  • Step 2: Enact a climate-friendly food procurement policy
  • Step 3: Develop climate-friendly food standards

Phase ll: Implement the policy and/or standards

  • Step 4: Develop a plan for communications and staff training
  • Step 5: Update bid solicitation and contract language
  • Step 6: Track and report progress

The guide also includes many examples of cities and counties that are supporting climate-friendly purchasing through food procurement policies, climate action plans, food or wellness policies or as part of their nutrition standards.


Publication Date: December 7, 2017

Related Organizations:

  • Friends of the Earth


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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User Comments:

  • July 14, 2018
    Laura Hunter

    We have needed this report for so long. Thank you for making it available!