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The Carletonian

Bon App to include more local chicken

<esponse to student concerns and in an effort to improve campus sustainability, Bon Appétit has increased its offerings of locally sourced poultry in the dining halls. To reduce its reliance on Tyson chicken, Bon Appétit now offers more turkey from Ferndale Market and more chicken from Main Street Project, two local farms.

The change comes after Food Truth, a campus organization dedicated to raising consciousness about food-related issues, urged Bon Appétit to eliminate Tyson chicken from the dining hall, citing concerns about Tyson Foods’ record on environmental impact and workers’ and animals’ rights.

“This has been an ongoing conversation with students about trying to do more sustainable food in the dining halls, which is Bon Appétit’s goals,” said Katie McKenna, Bon Appétit’s General Manager at Carleton. “By doing this, we’re reducing the amount of Tyson that we’re putting in the dining hall. The reality of it is that it costs us $75 more per meal period to use the local sustainable food, but the thing is, we have to put our money where our mouth is. We talk about sustainability, and we want to live that,” she said.

To make up the cost difference between local chicken and Tyson chicken, Bon Appétit is practicing menu management, meaning the dining halls will offer less expensive side dishes when the chicken is served, according to McKenna.

James Harren ’19, co-president of Food Truth and Bon Appétit Sustainability and Marketing Manager, explained that students have been trying to eliminate Tyson chicken in the dining hall for nearly six years.

Last spring, Food Truth established a Tyson chicken taskforce, which worked with Bon Appétit to raise student awareness of the practices of Tyson chicken and to encourage students to choose more sustainable, locally sourced meat options in the dining halls.

“There are several reasons that we wanted to reduce the amount of Tyson chicken in the dining hall,” Harren said. “There’s been workers’ rights issues, instances of racism at Tyson facilities, and then, there’s also the obvious reason that these chickens live a very sad life, a much sadder life than the Main Street chickens. Finally, Tyson is the number three water polluter in the country.”

“Our original goal, before we understood the situation more, was to get 50 percent of the Tyson chicken out of the dining hall. That’s not going to happen, and we understand now that cannot happen with the way that students are eating,” Harren said.

Grace Johnson ’18, a member of Food Truth who pushed for the reduction in Tyson chicken, said that “what really drew my attention was that it wasn’t just an animals rights issue. It also concerned the environment and workers’ health.

“So you could care about a lot of different social justice issues, and they all touch on this one thing,” she said.
Main Street Project began selling its locally sourced chicken to Bon Appétit in 2010, according to Wil Crombie, Communications Director for Main Street Project. However, at that time, Main Street Project was not large enough to provide the campus with a sufficient amount of chicken.

“The challenge is, they can’t supply us with the 1200 pounds of chicken that we go through each week serving students,” said McKenna, so the dining halls use a larger source, like Tyson.
Another problem is how students prefer to consume the chicken, according to McKenna. “The majority of what students are eating is the breast meat. And how many breasts are in a chicken? Only two. It doesn’t make sense to switch from Tyson chicken to the local chicken if we’re not using the whole chicken because that’s not sustainable, so one of the things that we are trying to do is educate students on the beauty of using the whole bird.”

The smaller size of Main Street Project means that it must sell whole or quartered chickens. As a result, the dining halls are now serving types of and more bone-in chicken, according to McKenna. “For us to de-bone all of that chicken is crazy,” she said.

McKenna pointed out that despite the challenges of using Main Street Project chicken, “the quality of the Main Street chicken is fabulous, and the flavor is fabulous.”

“You can’t compare our chicken to Tyson. The differences are night and day. Our birds have access to a free-range paddock, which means lots of sunshine and fresh air,” Crombie said.

As Main Street Project grows, the farm can provide more chicken to the dining halls. For instance, during the 2015-2016 school year, Main Street Project sold Bon Appétit 929 of the 5,162 chickens it produced. This school year, Main Street Project has already sold Bon Appétit 630 of the 7,500 chickens it will likely produce, according to Crombie.

“We were definitely pleased with the developments,” Harren said, “because we’ve seen real change. The fact that something happened is incredible and a huge step forward.”

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