Could Berkeley serve less meat at city-run facilities? City to study climate change concerns

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Berkeley could reduce the city’s use of meat served by 50% by 2024 – authorities’ latest effort to tackle climate change.

Berkeley city council voted unanimously Tuesday night to consider the proposal. But the move was mostly symbolic, as city officials said they didn’t know where the city served meat and how much was served.

The resolution, drafted by council member Sophie Hahn and Mayor Jesse Arreguín, asks city staff to investigate whether the city can achieve a 50% decrease. The resolution also noted the council’s commitment to consider the complete elimination of meat products.

Part of the drive to reduce meat products comes from the way animal husbandry contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Cows, for example, are a big contributor through burping and manure that produces methane, a greenhouse gas. In addition, forests are often cut down to create pasture for livestock, which releases carbon dioxide stored in the trees.

“There is a lot of research and consideration to be done,” Hahn told The Chronicle of the move. “But the legislation is a recognition of the enormous impact that meat, especially red meat, on the environment and it is a way for the city to lead the way in reducing the amount of meat consumed and therefore, in reducing the environmental impact of the food we eat.

Hahn said the resolution also requires the city manager to report to council on how much meat the city serves and where.

The resolution is the latest environmental legislation passed by the city. In 2019, Berkeley banned the installation of natural gas lines in new homes. The city has also banned single-use disposables, forcing restaurants to use compostable take-out food in the same year.

But this symbolic decision highlights the difficulties for cities trying to tackle climate change. Many cities in the Bay Area have been successful in reducing their emissions, but sometimes it is difficult to have a major impact as the large sectors that drive climate change are regulated by the state and the federal government. In January, Berkeley considered banning the sale of gasoline vehicles in the city by 2027, but critics pointed out people could buy cars in nearby towns.

Hahn touted his history of supporting sustainable food programs, including his work to change city rules in 2012 to allow the sale and trade of local produce.

Hahn – who does not adhere to a plant-based diet – said Tuesday’s resolution needed even more work. City staff will report to council next January on the bylaws to be considered in making this decision.

“It’s a way for us to take a look at what we buy and what we serve and just consider how we can reduce our carbon footprint,” Hahn said.

Sarah Ravani is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @SarRavani


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