Could beef be the biggest beef of Lent term?

‘We’re not saying thou shalt not eat beef – we’re just not serving it’


Whilst environmental programmes such as Cambridge’s ‘sustainable food policy’ are generally invisible to the student eye, from Lent 2019 the controversies sparked by the University’s food policy might be harder to ignore.

The sustainable food policy’s most obvious manifestation is the reduction of meat on college menus: notably lamb and beef, given their link to higher pollution levels.

From next term, Magdalene will only serve beef or lamb at formal once a week; Vincent Howard, the catering manager, attributed the move to the sheer ubiquity of calls by college students for a change of programme. With students thought to be six times more likely to go vegetarian or vegan that their parents, it’s understandable that the student body has been such a catalyst for change.

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Pending: war between vegetarians and carnivores.

Fitzwilliam and St John’s have taken a subtler approach to reducing meat consumption: putting A-Level psychology into action and utilising ‘choice architecture’ to encourage students to swap to more sustainable food options. At Fitz, this move is as simple as placing vegan and vegetarian options at the front of the servery; St John’s places beef below plant-based alternatives on its formal menus, adding a surcharge for students who opt for the red meat option.

So far, moves towards plant-based options have inspired admirably little opposition. My high-class investigative journalism has revealed that approximately 0 Grudgebridges have been precipitated by non-college cafés cutting out lamb and beef since 2017.

For many, however, tacit acceptance of these changes was likely unknowing: the measures have been deliberately implemented slowly and gradually, so as not to precipitate controversy. This may change as the moves towards sustainable food options become more obvious.

The most (in)famous resistance to the sustainable food policy was Churchill’s Monday Steak Club. Formed in reaction to the JCR’s introduction of ‘meat-free Mondays’, the Steak Club reached dizzying heights of fame: baptised by The Daily Mail as a ‘bizarre barbecue protest’.

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Ah. The dulcet tones of the oppressed upper middle class. Profound.

Despite the threats of war which the herbivores and carnivores on the Cam occasionally throw at one another, the University itself has precariously attempted to adopt a an inoffensive line. Cambridge’s Head of Business Services, Tom Walston, said ‘We’re not wagging a finger at people and saying ‘thou shalt not eat beef’ – we’re just not serving it’.