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Better Burger Challenge Launches Nationwide on Memorial Day

Grilling season’s new greener option is a healthier, environmentally friendly burger that supports good farming practices

Berkeley, Calif. – Memorial Day weekend and National Hamburger Day (May 28th) kick off burger grilling season and the launch of the Better Burger Challenge, a new campaign from Friends of the Earth and Turning Green to transform the iconic, resource-intensive American hamburger into a force for better personal health, good farming practices and animal welfare.

A better burger replaces standard industrial beef with higher quality certified grass-fed and/or organic pasture-raised meat — and then blends 30 percent of the burger with organic veggies and mushrooms, or uses 100% organic veggies, mushrooms and grains. Starting Memorial Day, the campaign will call on chefs, restaurants, business and college campuses to put a better burger on the menu — for a day, a week or longer.

“All meat is not created equal,” said Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of the food and technology program at Friends of the Earth. “Industrial meat pollutes our environment and our bodies. The better burger swaps out industrial beef for pasture-raised grass-fed or organic meat blended with mushrooms, transforming it into a healthier food with a lower environmental footprint. As we enter the grilling season, we are asking Americans, restaurants and universities to support their local farmers and ranchers—as well as the health of their customers and the planet – by taking the Better Burger challenge.

Friends of the Earth and Turning Green are partnering to promote hundreds of better burger parties planned by their supporters around the country between Memorial Day and July 4th and Labor Day.

According to Purdue University, more beef is consumed on Memorial Day than any other day of the year (followed by July 4th and Labor day). Yet, the majority of beef sold in the U.S. comes from industrial feedlots, where animals are housed in filthy, cramped conditions, fed a diet of unsustainable GMO corn and soy, and routinely given antibiotics and hormones. The result is environmental destruction, unhealthy animals and a real threat to both personal and public health.

According to a 2016 Mintel report, 43 percent of consumers want more grass-fed burgers on restaurant menus. Yet, a new economic study by several investment companies found that 80 percent of grass-fed meat is imported. This hurts small-scale American farmers and ranchers who practice regenerative and higher welfare farming. The campaign aims to increase opportunity for those farmers by building the market for domestic certified grass-fed and organic pasture-raised meat.

By blending leaner grass-fed meat with veggies, chefs report increased flavor and juiciness. Chef Paul Lieggi from Mt. Angel Abbey in Oregon reported that, “The burgers were fantastic! The guests loved and some even raved about them. We will be blending more beef and local produce soon!”

The campaign has produced a short video and secured commitments to serve better burgers from restaurants including Namu Gaji in San Francisco, The Honest Bison in LA, caterers including Paula LeDuc Fine Catering and Oren’s Kitchen, and food service operator Bon Appetit Management Company.

Cal Peternell, head chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley has endorsed the campaign. “In order to improve the health of people and the planet, we need to shift our diets away from industrially produced meat and support the livelihoods of farmer and ranchers that are caring for the land. The Better Burger Challenge is a simple, tasty way to make that shift.”

In fall 2017, the campaign will mobilize dozens of Turning Green student members around getting a better burger served on their campuses. Several students have gotten a head start and organized events this semester on campuses, including at University of North Carolina–Ashville and Ohio State University.

“This project gives students an easy entry point to rethink burgers through an ethical food lens, and then apply that wisdom to shift campus dining’s supply chain to ensure the health of students and planet,” said Judi Shils, Executive Director of Turning Green. “We’re generating critical demand for responsible farmers and ranchers, creating impactful change, and having fun while we’re doing it.”

Expert contact: Kari Hamerschlag, (510) 207-7257, khamerschlag@foe.org
Press contact: Haven Bourque, (415) 505-3473, haven@havenbmedia.com

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