Comment: Is it time to remove meat from hotel menus?

Nicolas Khairallah

Gili Lankanfushi GM Nicolas Khairallah on how meat consumption is impacting the hospitality industry's sustainability goals

As hospitality professionals enter the fourth and final quarter of the year, it’s important to look back and reflect on what shaped our industry across the past 12 months. With the trials and tribulations of two pandemic years no longer shadowing our every decision, we are realigning our attention to both the safety of our guests and increasingly the safety of our planet.

Meat on the Menu: Cut Back or Give it Up?
Meat consumption continues to be a hot topic within the hospitality industry. There’s now a universal understanding that sustainability, health and climate change are partly tethered to what we eat, with meat being a core component of that. The adoption of 'flexitarian' and 'reducetarian' (less meat, dairy and eggs) lifestyle changes are encouraging the reduction of meat consumption, but its continued presence within the hospitality industry contributes to supply demand.

In fact, as of 2019, half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture with more than three-quarters of this space used for livestock production. Although alarming, this statistic is not surprising when global meat consumption rose by 5% in 2021 to an estimated 339 million metric tonnes. The environmental cost of this is reflected in water and carbon dioxide footprints as well as the often unethical treatment of animals – just three of the many negative effects that will continue if this consumption rate continues to rise.

For those in the hospitality industry, the truth is loud and clear: the more we incorporate meat into our menus, the less likely we are to reduce the mammoth climate, sustainability and animal welfare impacts of meat production. We have a responsibility to both our guests and the planet to decrease our meat offering or at the very least, put our thinking caps on and offer tasty alternatives.

The resort's organic garden

Think Local, Be Creative
At Gili Lankanfushi, sustainability is at the heart and soul of everything we do, making the decision to offer plant-based menus and meat substitutes an easy one. Spearheaded by our executive chef Harinath Govindaraj, our culinary offering embraces the bounty of surrounding waters alongside local ingredients grown from our own organic garden.

We allow guests to break any habitual meat-eating by having their eyes opened to the diversity and versatility of plants with dishes such as pan-seared ‘scallops’ made from home-grown daikon and our aloe vera coconut ceviche.

And perhaps that’s the secret. People go to restaurants, cafes and other dining establishments because they're looking for enjoyment through food. If we make efforts to offer the option of meat-free alternatives or showcase delicious, creative ways to use vegetables, guests are given the opportunity to discover something new. 

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Offer Integrated Experiences
As of 2022, the wellness tourism industry has boomed into a US$919 billion market – a clear indicator that holidaymakers are travelling with health and wellbeing in mind. The popularity of our five-day Powered by Plants package is a testament to that. Featuring plant-based meals and nature-based experiences, the package has been designed to offset the impact on the environment and allow guests to reach their wellness goals while also enjoying a well-deserved break.

So, where does the buck stop? Do we make efforts to slightly reduce the use of meat in our dishes, or do we go cold turkey and eliminate it altogether? As with most changes in life, slow transitions are often the ones that stick. Completely swiping meat off menus would no doubt ruffle some feathers, but slowly educating diners on the wonderful world of creative alternatives might mean that eventually, they won’t miss the meat at all.

For more information, visit www.gili-lankanfushi.com

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