Monday, February 11, 2008

UCI Humane Eggs - Response

Which Came First, the Chicken or the Cage-Free Egg?
By Daniel Dooros

Student Affairs and UC Irvine Dining and Hospitality Services are on track to implement a plan for increasing sustainable, organic dining practices. As a result, the following has been accomplished in the last two years:

1. Adhering to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood-watch guidelines.
2. Using trade-certified coffee at all Starbucks and Java City coffee brewery locations.
3. Practicing a coffee grounds recycling program in collaboration with UCI Facilities and Waste Management.
4. Collaborating with UCI Recycling and Waste Management on a coffee mug program.
5. Utilizing biodegradable plates and to-go containers whenever possible.
6. Upholding traditional recycling practices.
7. Implementing grease recycling.
8. Participating in America’s Second Harvest, a hunger-relief program, with unsold baked goods.
9. Buying locally-grown produce.
10. Offering environmentally-friendly household products for purchase.
11. Stocking reusable dishware in all dining commons—Mesa, Brandywine and Pippin.
12. Placing energy-efficient lighting wherever possible, in collaboration with the UCI Green Campus Program.
13. Purchasing Energy Star equipment and plantation-grown teak furniture for Starbucks.
14. Holding Weigh the Waste events to increase awareness of food waste.

So what about the chicken and the egg? Why is the university being accused of having egg on its face? As we have shared with those concerned about the practices of the egg industry, UCI will be implementing organic egg products this spring. We will use USDA-regulated organic eggs, meaning they come from free-range hens that are not injected with antibodies and hormones.

Student Affairs has been clear that we need to weigh and balance staffing operations and insurance costs, along with the total cost to students to attend UCI. We ran a pilot program last year, and are now ready to provide organic eggs across the campus. We planned for this price increase, as it is our responsibility to consider all student costs, not just food rates, when implementing sustainable, organic practices that increase costs on campus.

As a result, we decided to phase in all of these programs, including organic egg provision. In fact, when we informed a campus group concerned about the program, they responded with a May 2007 letter stating “Phasing in the change over time (perhaps one or two years?) would seem reasonable, given the fiscal constraints that Student Affairs is dealing with right now.” In the same letter, Vice Chancellor Manuel G√≥mez was lauded for having the vision to promote these practices, and for responsiveness and leadership on this issue.

UCI Dining and Hospitality is dedicated to UCI’s pursuit of sustainable practices that minimize the campus’s impact on our ecosystem. The plan to implement organic, environmentally friendly products and services, including organic eggs, was informed by a number of student voices and campus citizens’ ideas. We are pleased that last fall, PETA2 (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ youth organization) recognized UCI with straight “A’s” for nutritious, humane vegan food.

It is a wonder how setting plans and timetables to implement organic, environmentally friendly products and services can be considered “resistance to change and ignoring voices.” We remain steadfast in our belief that mutual respect and commitment to collaboration is the most effective method to advance our efforts in achieving a sustainable university.

Student Affairs is dedicated to building on our present practices as we safeguard limited resources for current and future students. We are meeting our commitments and goals according to a rubric that considers affordability for students. Let us know your ideas for increasing and improving our sustainability program efforts in dining services by visiting http://www.ucidining.com.

Dan Dooros is the assistant vice chancellor of student affairs. He can be reached at djdooros@uci.edu.

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