UCSF Sustainability Stories

Suanne Klahorst, November 2013

Healthcare gathers at UCSF for “Sustainable Meat Summit”

UCSF’s commitment to sustainable food is one of many reasons that UCSF has been named one of America’s greenest hospitals.  Building upon the Academic Senate’s recent resolution to phase out meat raised with non-therapeutic antibiotics, the medical center announced that it will now serve only antibiotic-free chicken on its patient and retail menus. Dan Henroid, director of nutrition and food services and sustainability officer for the hospital, made the announcement during the Balanced Menus Conference, held in October. The conference was sponsored by the Physicians for Social Responsibility, Healthcare Without Harm, and the California Endowment.

“We are switching all of our 4-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast to an antibiotic-free option,” Henroid says. “This will cut over everything on our menu that uses chicken breast. It is a substantial thing for us to find a uniform product for cost containment and nutrition quality at a price we can afford.”

“We’ve been working on this [purchasing agreement] for a while,” he says, noting that the purpose of the conference was also to examine strategies for purchasing more proteins from animals not treated with excessive antibiotics.

Commitment to Working Across the Supply Chain

When UCSF set out to find a supplier for cage-free liquid eggs that fit its food budget, it took nearly three years to find the right supplier. Bringing sustainable meat to the hospital bedside will take strong leadership and collaboration—no one hospital is big enough alone to shift the food production supply chain.  UCSF has partnered with colleagues at SF General, UCLA, Stanford, Kaiser, John Muir Health, Washington Hospital, and USF to work together to promote sustainable meat practices.

This group of hopeful healthcare representatives gathered at UCSF on October 7th to discuss alternatives to livestock raised on antibiotics.  At this unprecedented gathering,  the 80 participants included sixth generation cattlemen, chicken farmers, and physicians from the UCSF academic senate.  It is currently estimated that 80% of the antibiotics in the U.S. are fed to animals, a number that healthcare professionals would like to see reduced.

From Pasture to Fork

The summit speakers explored the hospital food chain from pasture to fork. Hospitals are looking to benefit from small and medium livestock producers who offer alternatives to intensive farming practices that boost production through antibiotic use. A key challenge is that small producers often sell direct, while hospitals need processed, pre-weighed, prepackaged 4-ounce servings delivered to their loading dock. One solution is to consolidate demand with other local hospitals to form a buying group and to partner with The California Alliance for Family Farmers (CAFF) to find family farmers who could benefit from selling to the healthcare industry. 
                                                                  UCSF Food and Nutrition Services Sustainable Leaders: 
                                                                  Leila Tabrizi, R.D., Luis Vargas, Ariane Michas (CAFF),
                                                                  Anne Boyle, R.D., Jack Henderson.
Food Team

Leadership Transforms Food Service

UCSF food service director Dan Henroid organized back-of-the-house tours of UCSF food service facilities. According to tour leader Luis Vargas, UCSF Food Procurement is transforming UCSF’s food service to sustainable offerings “one item at time.” From organic baby food to cage-free eggs, to date, this approach has helped UCSF exceed UC’s sustainable food goal of 20 percent by 2020. Vargas estimated that 26 percent of his food purchases last year had at least one sustainable attribute.

UCSF is taking a leadership role to eliminate antibiotics from meat purchases.  Taking on this challenge will require partnering with key stakeholders to influence the supply chain.  PSR member physicians have become diligent about restricting antibiotic use to prevent bacterial resistance. They remain discouraged that producers who feed livestock liberal quantities of antibiotics remain undeterred by the transfer of antibiotic resistant bacteria from livestock to humans. Healthcare professionals are rallying around this public health threat, citing that purchase of livestock raised by these methods is in conflict with their health mandate.

Tom Newman, M.D., UCSF sustainability committee, provides academic leadership on food and sustainability issues. His assessment of the environmental impacts of meat production included contributions to climate change, deforestation, and higher water and energy expenditures. He explained that chickens require the least resources per serving.  Mike Martin, M.D., chair of UCSF Academic Senate sustainability committee, predicts that feeding livestock excessive antibiotics will eventually be considered as unacceptable as exposing people to second hand smoke.  A recent resolution authored by the committee has provided support for phasing in sustainable meat.

UCSF Academic Senate Sustainable Leaders: (L to R)  Mike Martin, M.D.,
Tom Newman M.D., Robert Gould, M.D., Gail Lee, Sustainability Manager,
Alison Cleaver, Senior Analyst .
 Academic senate and Gail Lee

More information on the program and UCSF’s role at “Balanced Menus: Meeting Health Care’s Demand for Sustainable Meat.” can be found at Health Care Without Harm.