WeWork and Virgin Atlantic prove their meat free mettle

Office rental company and airline act to cut down on the amount of meat they serve

WeWork logo next to an image of the tail of a Virgin Atlantic plane in the air

WeWork image ©StockNinja/Bigstock.com, Virgin Atlantic image ©Edith Rum/Bigstock.com

Greener eating has had a good month in business circles, with news that WeWork, Virgin Atlantic and Air New Zealand have all been cutting back on the amount of meat they serve.

WeWork, a US-based startup that rents out office space, says it will no longer serve meat at events it hosts and pays for, and that its staff will no longer be able to put any meals that contain meat on expenses. In addition, its Summer Camp event, a festival for WeWork members, will be serving only meat free options.

The company’s co-founder, Miguel McKelvey, said a concern for the environment lay behind the move, which is expected to save 445.1 millions pounds of CO2 emissions over the next five years, as well as the lives of 15.5 million animals. “New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact, even more than switching to a hybrid car,” he said.

Virgin Atlantic, meanwhile, is in the process of phasing out beef and other environmentally unpalatable foodstuffs from the 5.5 million meals it serves a year. Sir Richard Branson’s company, which is also ditching palm oil and soy, linked, like beef, to deforestation in areas such as the Amazon basin, has partnered with the Sustainable Restaurant Association in a bid to become greener. While it’s tempting to suggest the most effective way to cut the airline’s environmental impact would be to ground all aircraft indefinitely, serving food that doesn’t cost the planet is a good first step.

Branson himself – an early Meat Free Monday supporter – is leading by example, having given up red meat, explaining: “The more cattle you have in the world, the more the rainforests are going to disappear, acre by acre.” He has thrown himself into alternatives, however, investing in Memphis Meats and Beyond Meat, which makes the Beyond Burger, and clearly not missing beef one bit. He has said: “I spend a lot of time on Necker Island serving Beyond Meat burgers to rabid meat-eaters and them telling me, as the juice drips from their chin, that it’s the best burger they’ve ever eaten.”

And staying with aviation, following a stratospheric rise since launching two years ago, the Impossible Burger has finally made it 30,000 feet – onto the plates of passengers flying Air New Zealand. The national carrier of the Land of the Long White Cloud is to become the world’s first airline to serve the meat free burger created by Impossible Foods, which is backed by Microsoft entrepreneur Bill Gates, who also invests in Memphis Meats. It will be served until October to business-class passengers flying from Los Angeles to Auckland, then presumably bosses will decide whether to roll it out to economy class.

British trains, meanwhile, are arriving as late on this issue as they do on the platforms. With a paltry offering of vegan food available on rail services across the UK, the Vegan Society is calling on its supporters to start campaigning for improved fare. As part of its “Vegan on the Go” campaign – and following a survey last year that found 80 per cent of vegans can’t eat any food sold on board trains – it is encouraging people to contact train companies and ask for more vegan-friendly food and drink to be served in buffet cars and trolleys. So far only Eurostar and Virgin Trains serve any decent vegan options.

Louise Davies, the Vegan Society’s head of campaigns, said: “We would like more options than a packet of ready salted crisps on a long journey and would love for train companies to hop onboard and help us to make vegan travel plain sailing. We’d love to see at least one savoury and one sweet vegan food option, as well as plant milk being offered onboard trains, and we’re more than happy to offer advice and resources to companies wishing to improve their vegan offering.”