Compass Group, which serves 7 million meals in the US every day, announced the move in a bid to improve sustainability.
As part of a four-pronged approach to greening its operations stateside, Compass said it would serve less red meat and more plant-based food to its American customers.
It also plans to introduce meals “where meat plays more of a supporting role”, as well as to use its menus and messaging to help promote health and sustainability among its customers.
The move is part of the Menus of Change project, developed by the Culinary Institute of America and the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, to help make the food-service industry more sustainable.
Compass Group serves approximately four billion meals a year in 50 countries around the world, guaranteeing that its decision to make fewer of those dependent on meat will send an international message.
The move is particularly timely given the recent warning by a leading nutritional panel that Americans must cut back on their consumption of animal products.
Rick Post, the group’s chief operations officer said it was “the right thing to do for a sustainable future”, adding that Menus of Change would help its customers by improving their “healthy lifestyle choices … and the health of the planet”.
It isn’t the first contract food-service company to appreciate the health benefits of serving less meat – nor indeed the financial benefits, given the relative cost of meat compared with vegetables, legumes and grains.
French foodservice giant Sodexo joined the Meat Free Monday campaign in 2011, dropping meat from the menu at the start of the week in the 3,000 corporate and government cafeterias it serves in the US.
Welcoming Compass’s commitment, Greg Drescher, of the Culinary Institute of America, said: “By adopting these [Menus for Change] initiatives, Compass signals to our industry that now is the time for all of us to embrace the aspirations of our customers, who want more food choices that are at once craveably delicious, healthy, and sustainable.”