A provision tucked into the House version of 2023′s defense budget bill could require the Navy to serve up Beyond Burgers or Gardein at a number of forward bases.
The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2023 would create a pilot program by March 2023 to offer “plant-based protein options” at least two Navy forward operating bases.
The secretary of the Navy would identify at least two forward Navy installations for the pilot effort and would be directed to prioritize bases “where livestock-based protein options may be costly to obtain or store,” the amendment states.
It mentions specifically Joint Region Marianas, Guam; Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean; and U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan, as examples of such bases.
The program would run for three years, according to the language. After that period, the secretary of the Navy would submit a report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees including the following data:
- The consumption rate of plant-based protein options by sailors at bases in the pilot program.
- Effective criteria to increase vegan meat offerings at other Navy bases.
- And a comparative analysis of the costs to buy, store and serve the plant-based protein versus those for regular meat.
The amendment was introduced by Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Michigan Democrat who worked at the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Defense before her election to Congress in 2019.
It reprises a separate resolution Slotkin introduced in 2021, which clarifies that troops at bases participating in the pilot would still have access to animal products and the vegan options would merely be an additional offering.
The language and structure of the study also focus on the cost of shipping and preserving meat at remote or far-flung bases.
Nonetheless, some house Republicans are decrying the proposal as an example of the liberal agenda infiltrating military matters.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican who initially voted against the 2022 defense budget bill due to what she described as “liberal woke garbage” within it, offered an amendment to strike Slotkin’s vegan meat proposal. That move was first reported by the Association of the U.S. Navy.
Texas Republican Chip Roy called out the vegan meat proposal in 2021′s defense bill, including it in a Twitter thread explaining why he, too, voted against it.
“A woke military that drafts our daughters, wastes resources on Green New Deal garbage, holds no one accountable for Afghanistan disaster, and prioritizes playing leftist politics over destroying our enemies,” he wrote in the thread. “Rep. Roy voted no.”
The Defense Department, however, has more reason to pursue cost-saving measures at chow halls now than it did before.
On Wednesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that inflation had reached a 40-year peak of 9.1% over the past year. While rising energy prices are a major factor driving the climbing costs, meat prices have gone up faster and further than other food staples, climbing more than 15% year over year.
In places like Guam and Diego Garcia, where many grocery staples are imported, food costs on perishable items have long been high. A pound of chicken in Guam costs an average of $9 right now; a gallon of milk goes for more than $11.
To hear the vegan lobby tell it, troops have been clamoring for more plant-based options for a while.
Activist group Mercy for Animals found that 81% of the 226 troops they surveyed wanted more access to plant-based foods, including vegan Meals, Ready to Eat, even though only 3.5% of respondents said they were vegan. And while that’s hardly scientific, the Air Force has found enough interest in vegan protein options that it has begun offering them, even without a congressional mandate.
In 2019, the service announced a partnership with hamburger chain BurgerFi that would bring the popular vegan Beyond Burger to food courts on bases; individual installations, such as Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, also have taken steps to add vegan options at military chow halls.
The Coast Guard has leaned into vegan offerings at facilities including Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown, Virginia, earning accolades from PETA for its efforts.