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OU Not as Vegan-Friendly as Advertised

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Ohio University Culinary Services buys from the highly criticized meat producer Tyson Foods Inc., despite OU’s ranking by peta2 as one of the most vegan-friendly colleges in the country.

Although the previous two years OU ranked in the top four in vegan-friendliness, it dropped into the honorable mention pool in the Most Vegan-Friendly College Contest hosted by peta2, the youth division of PETA.

After going undercover to investigate Tyson factories and slaughterhouses in 2004 and 2005, PETA criticized Tyson, which counts among other OU meat providers like Gordon Food Service, Koch Foods and White Feather Farm, for its “unimaginable cruelty to chickens,” according to Peta2’s website.

According to a PETA video, workers at Tyson often “mutilated” the chickens, and “birds were sent to the killing machine fully awake” in some cases.

“I just think that the dining halls should try to get a more sustainable source for their meat,” said Gretchen Snyder, a freshman who said she finally went “all the way with animal rights,” and became vegan last year.

Snyder said that she had also heard of Tyson employing the same techniques as many other factory farms, such as growth hormones that weaken the animals’ bone structures and cramped cages.

“They’re used as products and not living beings,” she said, explaining that she considered farm animals as no different from pets.

However, Snyder said that OU’s vegan-friendliness is not “as good as they advertise it to be,” for other reasons as well. What plagues OU dining halls, according to the refrain from several OU vegan students, is lack of variation.

In a university survey conducted in the fall of 2012, “approximately 11 percent of respondents considered themselves vegan and/or requiring a special diet,” said Dan Pittman, Assistant Director of Auxiliary Sales for OU Culinary Services.

“The main source of food was through the salad bar,” said freshman Sean Cassidy, a vegetarian since 7th grade who briefly attempted veganism upon arriving at OU. “So it was just a lot of raw foods, which is good and I love that, but it’s repetitive…[At] every other station, there’s lots of foods offered, but the veggie station is always just soup.”

Cassidy said that dining halls would need cooks who specialize in vegan cooking to achieve variety, a measure that won first place winner of peta2’s contest implemented in the form of a chef versed in vegan desserts. He also said that to stay healthy, on-campus vegans had to supplement their dining hall diet with other foods.

“I think it’s easy to be vegetarian here in the dining halls. Vegan—you can do it, but you should probably bring more food from home,” he said.

Missing or misplaced food labels, which list ingredients and display the vegan-friendly icon, are another grievance that vegan dining hall-goers share.

“The labels will get switched around, which sounds trivial, but after you don’t have meat or dairy for a long time, your body becomes really used to not running on it, and you get violently, violently sick if you have a trace of dairy in your food. So you wake up with food poisoning three hours into the night,” said Bekki Wyss, who became a vegan both to get healthier and as a bet with her best friend.

She also emphasized the importance of options and labeling for not only vegans, but also other people with other special dietary needs.

“It’s part of this whole larger effort to really label things and make clear for people what is kosher, what is gluten-free, what is dairy-free because people do have real issues with what they can and can’t eat,” she said.

“But I think OU is trying,” said Cassidy.

According to Pittman, OU began integrating vegan options into the dining hall menus about six years ago, after a group of students brought it to Culinary Services’ attention.

“Our vegan selection is continually updated and new recipes are being added to our menus each year—it is part of our commitment to providing students with the nourishment that they need in order to thrive in their collegiate pursuits,” he said.

Pittman also encouraged students to contact Culinary Services through comment cards, social media and face-to-face interactions, emphasizing that they take student feedback “very seriously.”

Snyder has also found ways of compensating for OU’s shortcomings.

“A lot of people, they think it’s not possible, but I really think you need to know where to look when you go to each dining hall,” she said.

Snyder’s favorite dining option is the Asian Wok at Jeff Dining Hall, which she calls an “easy option” and “always there.” She also fortifies her diet with foods from The Farmacy at 28 W. Stimpson Ave, which sells natural and organic foods.

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