Ground beef clearly has a place on the American menu: Think of all the burgers, chili, tacos, nachos and so many other items that rely on red meat. But consuming red meat has a lot of impact—both on the environment and on the human body. In fact, the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ current recommendation for red meat intake is at just a couple of ounces a couple of times a week.
For those used to the unmistakable fatty flavor of beef seared on a flattop, that might seem like a bit of a sacrifice. But when chefs keep flavors in the forefront, switching out red meat with lower impact (environmentally and healthwise) turkey, can work surprisingly well.
For Eurest, which has more than 2,000 locations throughout the U.S., making a switch like this with literally tons of ground turkey vs. tons of ground beef can really move the needle in several areas.
Eurest Regional Wellness Director Emily Wunder says the recent six-month pilot of Turkey for a Change consisted mainly of an effort to increase the use of ground turkey over ground beef on Eurest menus and providing marketing materials to educate guests. The culinary guidelines from Eurest to each region were implicitly “flavor first.”
“It’s been a big hit,” Wunder says, adding that educational component “helped them better understand the reason behind the change.”
The numbers, measured by Eurest throughout the pilot, are impressive:
-Health impact: Nutritional benefits of switching from beef to turkey: 85/15 percent lean turkey has 20 percent less calories and 32 percent less total fat, plus 33 percent less saturated fat than 80/20 lean ground beef (the blend most often used in burgers);
-Environmental impact: The production of turkey creates 12.9 percent less carbon dioxide emissions per pound than ground beef. American cows produce more greenhouse gas emissions than 22 million cars per year. “This simple menu change can result in huge strides towards reducing our carbon footprint,” says Jhonny Mahar, Eurest marketing pro; and
-The bottom line: Ground turkey comes in a lower cost than ground beef. The Eurest Eastern Division saw a 32.3 percent food cost savings during the six-month pilot.