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Majority of Military in US want Plant-Based Meals 

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

Aimee Louise Jones reports on how more US military personnel are seeking plant based options in a diet dictated by meat.

Photo by David Vazquez

In general, veganism and vegetarianism have grown significantly in the last couple of years. In 2021, The Vegan Society registered an impressive 16,439 products with the Vegan Trademark.

They explained that 82% of their product registrations have taken place in the last five years, showing rapid growth in plant-based products. However, despite an overall increase in people opting for plant-based foods, those who serve in the United States Armed Forces (USAF) are not given the option.

Requests from Military Members

A recent survey of 226 members of the USAF, led by animal-rights group Mercy for Animals (MFA), found that 81% of USAF members are wanting vegan-based meals, therefore it is quite surprising to find that 83% of the ready-to-eat meals offered to soldiers are meat-based, with the remaining 17% being suitable for vegetarians but not for vegans. The survey results captured the following:

  • 118 respondents agreed that plant-based foods are healthier than animal-based foods.

  • 115 agreed that plant-based foods offered more energy to the soldiers than animal-based foods.

  • 141 agreed that plant-based foods are more sustainable.

  • 182 stated that they think that the Military should be offering more plant-based options.

While the US military will accommodate for halal and vegetarian troops, there are no military Ready-to-Eat meals (MREs) that are completely plant-based, yet MREs are heavily relied on for all main meals throughout the day. Vegan troops are left relying on snacks to keep their hunger at bay and their energy up. The vegetarian options are also vastly outnumbered by meat-based options: of the 24 meal options available, 4 of them were suitable for vegetarians. Also, 63% of service people said that they would choose plant-based MREs if given the option. On top of requesting more plant-based foods, soldiers have also requested vegan-friendly uniforms to align with their dietary requirements and ethical perspectives. For example, offering an alternative to the leather boots that they are currently required to wear.

Benefits of Plant-Based Foods

Oxford Martin School researchers found that a global shift to plant-based diets could save up to 8-million lives by the year 2050, as well as cutting greenhouse gases by two-thirds and save $1.5 trillion in healthcare-related costs.

The British Nutrition Foundation’s research on plant-based food has found that people who commit to a full, plant-based diet or a reduced meat diet are less likely to be at risk of heart disease, strokes and type 2 diabetes by lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol and helping to maintain a healthy weight.

Furthermore, Nature Reviews Endocrinology published a report on trends, risk factors and policy implications in relation to global obesity. A link between increased consumption of animal products, refined grains and sugar was established, as factors influencing worldwide obesity increase - with our diets among the top global risk factors for illness and early death.

The summary

Following on from the US military survey, a detailed report is due to be completed by September of 2023 to steer forward provisions for plant-based eaters. Mercy for Animals are working very closely with the US military to facilitate the provision of plant-based meals for service people. Meeting the dietary preferences, needs and requirements of all walks of life is essential to nurture the health of individuals and the environment alike. Gaining insights into levels of accommodation for plant-based eaters in perhaps lesser-considered spheres and learning of dedicated initiatives and action in implementation to cater for said needs is assuring.


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