LE PECQ, France (AP) – By removing meat from the menu in school cafeterias, the environmentalist mayor of one of France’s most famous food cities has sparked a storm of protest and debate as the country increasingly questions the environmental costs of your meaty diet. habits.
Children in Lyon who were regularly offered options like beef and chicken in rich sauces were missing the meat option this week when they returned from school holidays. Instead: a meatless four-course meal that Lyon City Council says will be quicker and easier to serve to children who, due to the coronavirus pandemic, must be kept separate during lunch to avoid infection.
The City Council insists that meatless meals are temporary and that school cafeterias will return to offering meat options when social distancing rules are relaxed and children once again have more time to think about their food and eating choices.
And meatless menus still contain animal protein. Main dishes planned for this week include fish on Mondays and Fridays and eggs, either in an omelette or boiled with a creamy sauce, on other days. Children also receive starters for salads, a dairy product, often cheese or yogurt, and dessert.
Still, the farmers saw red. Some drove farm vehicles, cows and goats in protest Monday in Lyon, which prides itself fiercely on its rich food culture and signature dishes, many of them meaty.
The protesters’ banners and posters extolled the consumption of meat, proclaiming “meat from our fields = a healthy child” and “Stopping eating meat is a guarantee of weakness against the coming coronaviruses.”
The government’s Agriculture Minister, Julien Denormandie, also intervened and accused the Lyon City Council of “putting ideology on our children’s plates.” He and other critics argued that the measure would penalize children from poorer families who may not be able to eat meat outside of school.
“From a nutritional point of view, it is absurd to stop serving meat,” the minister said on RTL radio on Tuesday. “From a social point of view, it is a shame.”
Although fueled by the quintessential French obsession with food and the country’s powerful agricultural lobby, the furor has also gained momentum and acquired a political tone due to France’s electoral calendar.
A wave of victories for the green candidates, including the mayor of Lyon, in last year’s municipal elections He dealt a blow to the centrist party of French President Emmanuel Macron. Its success reflected the growing concern in France about environmental damage from intensive agriculture and other ecological problems. With more local elections scheduled for later this year, the Lyon school meals discussion offered a preview of the broader political battles to come.
Lyon City Council said serving the same food to all children, rather than offering them their usual meat and meatless options, would shorten the time they take for lunch. The City Council said it has just two hours to feed 29,000 children, which is a more difficult schedule to keep up with when classes must be kept separate in lunchrooms to minimize virus infections. The City Council said it also opted for meatless meals because they suit all children, including those who habitually do not eat meat for religious, dietary or other reasons.
The mayor, Gregory Doucet, said he is a flexitarian, eats meat in reasonable quantities and is not trying to force vegetarianism on children.
“It is important to be able to offer a warm meal sitting down to all the children,” she told BFM-TV. “This is Lyon, the capital of gastronomy. For us, taste is also essential. ”