Student activists have been ramping up their efforts to call on Cal Dining to phase out its partnership with food suppliers who source from factory farms, according to Zoe Rosenberg, prominent animal rights activist and president of Berkeley’s Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, chapter.
Cal Dining has sourced from a variety of animal produce suppliers, including several sustainable and local options such as Mary’s Free-Range Chicken and Cream Co. Meats as well as more affordable brands that have faced past criticism for their animal welfare practices, such as Hormel Foods and Tyson Foods, according to the Cal Dining website.
Last Friday, DxE led a protest outside of Golden Bear Cafe calling on Cal Dining to “break up” with factory farm suppliers, including Tyson.
“We pay thousands of dollars to be students here,” Rosenberg said. “And we deserve to have our concerns taken seriously, especially when they’re really serious concerns about animal abuse, worker abuse and pollution allegations against these companies.”
However, campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff said Cal Dining dropped Tyson Foods as a supplier prior to the start of the fall 2022 semester. He added he has “no idea” why the students were protesting against Tyson.
Yet according to Rosenberg and Kevin Korevaar from Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy, neither group had been made aware of the partnership severance.
“Cal Dining will only work with suppliers whose animal welfare methods are in alignment with best practices (and in many cases also meet halal and kosher requirements) and will discontinue our relationship with any supplier if they fail to live up to these standards,” Ratliff said in an email.
Two years ago, DxE staged a protest where its members chained themselves to Sather Gate demanding campus to drop Seaboard Foods after releasing footage of animal rights violations being committed on one of their farms, according to Rosenberg.
Shortly after, Cal Dining released a statement condemning Seaboard’s practices and announcing its severance from the supplier.
“A disconcerting video has recently come to our attention purporting to show a pig farm of a former Cal Dining pork supplier, Seaboard Foods … While we are examining these allegations, we have advised our meat supplier not to send any Seaboard Foods products,” Cal Dining said in a post on its website. “We also have plans to review all of our suppliers in detail to ensure they have an animal welfare certification.”
However, exactly what an “animal welfare certification” in the meat industry entails is an ethically wrong gray area, according to Rosenberg.
“The networks that grant these animal welfare certificates are bought out by factory farms,” Rosenberg said. “Most of these labels, they’re just there to manipulate consumers who care about animals and to think they’re buying something that is better for the animals, but really, that’s generally not the case.”