By Meaghan MacDougall
Plant-based protein is finding its way into the military by March of 2023. They’ll soon be finding out whether or not beyond burgers or gardein is a good option to have at Navy installations. The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2023 is creating a pilot program to test out the popularity of the vegan options.

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Plant-Based Protein Pilot Program

On July 14, 2022, the annual National Defense Authorization Act was passed, and deep within the bill, there’s a requirement that the Secretary of the Navy must launch the pilot program for serving plant-based meat by March of 2023. The pilot program will launch on at least two Navy installations “where livestock-based protein options may be costly to obtain or store.” By providing plant-based proteins at these Navy installations, the service members will have more options for protein choices. The bases that are being considered for the program are Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia, U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan, and Joint Region Marianas, Guam. Although plant-based protein will be served at certain Navy bases, this doesn’t mean that regular meat will be gone. The sailors at these bases will have their choice of plant-based protein or livestock-based protein. The pilot program will run for three years, and once it ends, the Secretary of the Navy will submit a report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. The data that will be submitted are listed below:
  • Effective criteria to increase vegan meat offerings at other Navy bases.
  • A comparative analysis of the costs to buy, store, and serve plant-based protein rather than those for livestock-based protein.
  • The consumption rate of plant-based protein options by Sailors at bases in the pilot program.

What Is Plant-Based Protein?

Plant-based protein is a great substitute for livestock-based protein for those who choose not to follow a diet that includes meat. Vegans and vegetarians often choose these options as their source of protein. What is plant-based protein made of? Some may believe that most of it is lab-grown protein, but, simply enough, plant proteins are made of plants. Tempeh, tofu, soya, peas, seitan, nuts, seeds, and certain grains are all examples of plant proteins that are often found in plant-based protein powder. Pulses, which include black beans, kidney beans, adzuki beans, lentils, chickpeas, and split peas, are another group of plants commonly used in alternative protein sources that all have high levels of protein. Not only are plant proteins an obvious source of protein, but they also offer many other nutritious benefits. These foods provide great fibers, vitamins, and minerals, which is another great plus of including plant proteins in your diet.

Is Plant Protein Enough?

Plant proteins are very different from animal proteins; animal proteins are complete proteins, which means that they contain all essential amino acids. Plant proteins, however, are incomplete proteins, meaning they do not have all of the essentials that animal proteins do. But, even though plant proteins are not complete proteins, it doesn’t mean that they don’t provide you with all of the necessary nutrients your body needs. Introducing the military to the pilot program for plant-based protein is far from abnormal, as the military is often used for experiments and the collection of data. The pilot program may even end up being great for the military in terms of being environmentally sufficient, considering the U.S. military carbon footprint is abnormally high. Much like the military climate change action plans, plant protein becoming a permanent option within the military could lead to the military taking a step in the right direction to being more environmentally friendly. Plant-based protein is a great substitute for animal protein, and with its imminent appearance in the United States Navy, it could open the door for the military to be able to accommodate all service members, regions, and the climate all at once.

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