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AT&T Park satisfies appetite for sustainability

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This season, the San Francisco Giants are offering the Impossible Burger inside AT&T Park, which is already known for its living garden and other sustainable initiatives. (Courtesy photo)

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This year at AT&T Park, the impossible will happen. Bon Appetit Management Company, which now operates concessions for the entire ballpark, recently added the Impossible Burger to the menu. The plant-based burger is made to taste, smell and even bleed like beef.

“We’ve been looking to expand our plant-forward offerings at the ballpark, and the Impossible Burger is a terrific option that has been very popular at Public House [adjacent to the ballpark] since we began serving it there more than a year ago,” Fedele Bauccio, CEO of Bon Appetit Management Company, told me.

AT&T Park has other vegetarian options. Its Organic Coup stand now offers acai bowls. The Garden, located under the scoreboard, grows herbs and produce. It also serves as a living classroom for local kids. PETA, the largest animals’ rights organization in the world, has ranked AT&T Park on its list of the top vegan-friendly ballparks multiple years.

These options and accolades aren’t surprising for a stadium in The City. San Francisco is known for its haute cuisine and environmental ethos. There’s a market for local, organic, non-GMO, sustainable food, even at baseball games.

But there’s also a market for meat and dairy; a big and growing market. Hamburgers, hot dogs and ice cream are ingrained in American traditions, and going to a ball game in San Francisco is really no different. Unfortunately, these traditions come at a cost to the environment.

The plant-based Impossible Burger is made to taste, smell and even bleed like beef. (Courtesy Impossible Burger)

The Impossible Burger at AT&T Park is an attempt to carry on without these costs. Food servers and suppliers are pioneering new ways to satisfy our craving for burgers, chicken and duck without hurting animals or the environment. Now, it’s up for San Franciscans to adopt non-meat into mainstream culture. 

Americans eat approximately 55 pounds of beef, 83 pounds of chicken and 46 pounds of pork per person annually, according to Dr. Jennifer Molidor of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental nonprofit. That’s more meat per capita than any other country, and it is expected to increase. Production tripled between 1980 and 2010 and will likely double again by 2050.

“This enormous appetite for meat is eating away at wildlife habitats, freshwater resources and climate stability,” Molidor told me.

It’s also hurting communities. The meat industry’s overuse of antibiotics is causing germs to become resistant to medicine we need. Decomposing manure is polluting water and air. Thanks to the recent omnibus bill President Donald Trump signed weeks ago, farms don’t have to report dangerous and toxic emissions from manure. This makes it hard for regulators to impose restrictions on livestock operations and keep children, families and neighborhoods safe. 

The emissions from raising cows, pigs and other animals for meat and dairy also impact climate change. The industry represents 14.5 percent of all human-produced global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report.

“Reducing meat is one of the most important things we can do to reduce our environmental footprint,” Molidor told me. “It can have a greater impact than driving a fuel-efficient car or eating an entirely local diet.”

While Bon Appetit’s companywide sustainability commitments inspired it to offer the Impossible Burger, the reaction has encouraged the company to expand the menu option to locations across the country, including AT&T Park. At the Public House, the meatless burger often outsells its meaty cousin.

Oakland Coliseum, which is not run by Bon Appetit, also recently debuted the Impossible Burger. It is currently on the menu at 25 locations in San Francisco.

The burger is only a part of the growing Bay Area non-meat industry. Numerous businesses are experimenting with lab-grown meat. Earlier this year, Tyson Foods announced it is investing in San Leandro’s Memphis Meats. The company is developing a way to produce real meat from animal cells, without the need to feed, bread or slaughter animals. Its other investors include Cargill, Bill Gates and Richard Branson.

It’s hard to know whether these investors are banking on the future. A movement toward “more natural” food has created resistance to ingredients like farmed fish and genetically modified products. Despite its environmental benefits, meat grown in a lab rather than on a farm may confront similar backlash.

But continuing to ignore the impact of our appetite isn’t doing us and the environment any favors. We need to eat less meat.

This season, branch out and try one of the many plant-based options at AT&T Park. The Impossible Burger is sold at the Derby Grill on the Field Club level.

GREEN SPACE Q&A

“What are the most common items that get misplaced?” — Will Perkins, fourth grade

Too many San Franciscans put food scraps, food-soiled paper and recyclables in the black bin, according to Recology. Although these items can be turned into valuable compost and products, they’re sitting unused and unloved in landfills. It’s an awful waste!

Recology also discourages San Franciscans from using plastic garbage bags to line their pails and cans. These plastic bags do not belong in the green or blue bins. Liner bags marked compostable are great for bagging up food scraps, cotton balls and food-soiled paper. Emptying, cleaning and drying recycled goods before putting them in the bin should also eliminate the need for liners. 

If San Franciscans correctly sorted all their bottles, cans, glass, paper and compostable materials, we could keep 90 percent of all trash out of landfills. We could make the future a little cleaner for you and the next generations. 

Thanks for the great question! Please email more sorting questions to bluegreenorblack@gmail.com.

Robyn Purchia is an environmental attorney, environmental blogger and environmental activist who hikes, gardens and tree hugs in her spare time. Check her out at robynpurchia.com.

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