Every day hundreds of students file in and out of dining halls, most of them consuming some type of meat. But where exactly is this meat coming from?
Penn Dining works with Bon Appétit Management Company to both purchase and cook the cuisine served in dining halls and retail locations. They classify all of their meat as “humane.”
In order to give their products this label, Bon Appétit uses third-party verification. Each meat industry, from poultry to beef, is radically different and these third parties act as checks on the inside workings of each specific company that campus food comes from.
“We are not necessarily the experts in raising and all that, so we look to third party experts to tell us what we should be buying or who is doing it the best,” Bon Appétit Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Daniel Connolly said.
The third parties used vary for each specific meat industry and can be found on Bon Appétit’s website. Generally, Bon Appétit gets their meat from animals that have not been raised in confined spaces or given antibiotics or water additives.
Resident District Manager of Bon Appétit Stephen Scardina emphasized that there are restrictions to provide quality control at a higher level of purchasing. This assures that Bon Appétit, and subsequently Penn Dining, is adhering to its sustainable goals.
“When our chefs go to purchase, they are restricted based on these standards. They can go to our different suppliers, but they will only see the product that meets the company’s specification,” Scardina assured.
In addition to working with these third-party verifiers, Bon Appétit has a governing company called Foodbuy, which does quality assurance inspections on specific operations to make sure standards are met.
“We take it very seriously,” Scardina said resolutely.
These specifications are especially important when it comes to buying and serving food in bulk. University spokesperson Barbara Lea-Kruger mentioned this as a core reason for Penn and Bon Appétit’s partnership.
“We [found that we] could serve lots of meals in a sustainable and humane way ... it is possible to do this.”
Lea-Kruger also emphasized Bon Appétit’s focus on farmworkers’ rights. The company works with various farmer advocacy groups, such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, to insure acceptable working conditions.
In terms of connections to campus organizations, Penn Dining’s and Bon Appétit’s relationship with the Penn Vegan Society is longstanding. They work together to “veganize” dining options.
“We have always insured that there are choices for the vegan-vegetarian population,” Scardina explained. “It actually ties into our company culture.”
Even with this extensive process, some Penn students are skeptical of the “humane” label. College freshman and vegan Mavis Athene U Chen expressed her views on dining hall meat.
“It is kind of weird that way because you are still eating [animals],” she said. “I guess if [Penn Dining] is making a conscious effort to do that [be sustainable], it is better than not doing anything.”
U Chen thinks that there are better ways to publicize how Penn Dining acquires its food. She mentioned Sweetgreen’s practice of listing the source of their ingredients and thinks Penn Dining could do something similar.
In response to student concerns, Lea-Kruger said, “We are really open to student suggestions ... I feel like our students really don’t feel like they can do that.”
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