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Bon Appetit raises ground beef standards

A Bon Appetit employee serves students at Founders Commons dining hall. As of Sept 1, all ground beef served at Mills has been held to higher animal welfare and safety standards. (Jade Jones-Hawk)

The Bon Appétit Management Company, Mills College’s food service provider, began sourcing its ground beef from suppliers that meet its own strict animal welfare standards on Sept 1.

Fedele Bauccio, Bon Appétit CEO and co-founder, told the Washington Post in August that he wants to change the meat industry and influence the “big players” to change their practices.

“The entire system of how we raise animals for food in this country is deeply flawed,” Bauccio said in a press release. “We have to move toward a more agro-ecological model, one that doesn’t crowd animals in horrifying conditions, concentrating their diseases and waste, but instead lets them engage in their natural behaviors and grow on Nature’s time frame.  That would be better for the animals and better for workers, the communities living around them and the environment.”

Back in February, Bon Appétit vowed that by 2015 it would purchase at least 25 percent of its beef, pork and poultry from ranches and farms whose practices have been certified by Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC), Animal Welfare Approved, Food Alliance or Global Animal Partnership.

While there are animal welfare certifications that the meat industry has developed, in which the farms self-report their practices, the four accepted by Bon Appétit are third-party verified and  have high standards of animal-husbandry, the agricultural practice of raising and breeding livestock.

“As of September 1, all our ground beef served in over 500 cafés in 32 states – 1.2 million pounds in 2011 – must come from national suppliers whose cattle have been certified as humanely raised or from Farm to Fork suppliers, local ranchers with whom our chefs have direct relationships,” said Bonnie Powell, Director of Communications for the Bon Appétit Management Company. “The reason we chose ground beef is that it was a way to make major progress toward that commitment: the vast majority of the beef we buy is ground, and we were able to line up a national supplier of Certified Humane ground beef on which the chefs can draw if they don’t have a Farm to Fork source.”

Powell stressed that these changes should not affect either the cost or choice of meals at Mills.

“Thanks to our buying power, we were able to negotiate a price for the ground beef that is not more expensive on average than the beef that we had been using,” Powell said. “All our ground beef was already ‘naturally raised,’ meaning raised without artificial hormones or routine antibiotics, as part of a separate policy.”

The efforts of Bon Appétit to promote sustainable agriculture are being applauded by certification programs such as the Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC).

“We need companies like Bon Appétit Management Company to lead the way so we can grow the supply of humanely raised beef,” said founder and CEO of HFAC Adele Douglass, who helped write the beef standards, in a press release. “Raising cattle is a big commitment, and changing practices can be expensive.  Producers need to know that there is both a demand and a reward for doing the right thing.”