An animal rights group Mercy for Animals poll found that 81% of US military members want vegan meals. Currently, vegan meals and MREs aren’t an option for service members. They can only choose from meals with animal protein or vegetarian dishes.

The organization polled 226 soldiers in all positions of the US military about their dietary preferences. Mercy for Animals utilized the survey platform Qualtrics to perform the poll. They found the respondents with Cint, a digital insights company.

Their survey revealed that most people identified as omnivores – about 58%. However, more than 23% of respondents wanted to cut down on animal products. 5.3% identified as flexitarians, 7.3% as vegetarians, and vegans made up only 3.5%. Only 1.8% of people said they followed a pescatarian diet.

Poll Finds 81% of US Military Wants Vegan Meals

Despite most of the respondents eating animal products, an astonishing 81% of military members want vegan meals. 69% said the military should provide plant-based MREs as well. Surprisingly, over 50% of people polled said they would choose vegan MREs over animal-based ones if they could.

Many service members had environmental concerns about food options as well. No matter what diet they followed, 70% of respondents would choose sustainable meals if the military made them available. 81% said they also wanted more climate-friendly MREs, the same percentage as those wanting vegan meals.

Mercy for Animals also asked participants if they believed vegan meals had more health and environmental benefits than animal-based meals. Over half (52%) said they strongly agreed or agreed that vegan meals lead to improved health. 51% of respondents also believed that plant-based foods enhanced their energy levels more than omnivorous options.

 63% also believed that plant-based foods had less environmental impact than animal products. In addition, the poll found that 69% of service members noticed more of their friends trying plant-based products than in the past.

vegan meals

What the Experts Say About the Trend Towards a Vegetarian Lifestyle

“Our research suggests service members are aware of the nutritional and environmental impact of their food choices,” said Dr. Courtney L. Dillard, MFA’s social change researcher and the study’s lead researcher.  

“As the US military continues to seek ways to best support the overall health and diverse needs of its loyal service members, we’re calling on lawmakers to require all military branches to provide plant-based MRE options.”

While service members rely on MREs in the field, only about 17% are vegetarian. Currently, the military doesn’t offer any vegan MREs.

Mercy for Animals encourages the public to contact state government officials about offering vegan meals for military members. The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) can address this and support the creation of plant-based MREs. If you’d like to show your support, you can do so here.

The popularity of Vegan Meals Keeps Growing in the Military.

Even though the US military doesn’t offer vegan meals in MREs, vegan entrees have gained popularity. In fact, a US army dining facility in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, began serving troops vegan options with every meal. After a soldier requested, the Guns and Rockets Dining Facility expanded its menu to include plant-based meals.

Currently, it’s the only dining facility in the army that provides vegan meals and side dishes to service members.

“We began testing items in February 2018 and were fully operational with labeling and an option at every meal by July 2018,” Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeremy Patterson told the military outlet Stars and Stripes. “Now, we sell out of the plant-based entrée at every meal.”

“We didn’t change the menu. We just substitute the meat within the dish. Instead of chicken enchiladas on Taco Tuesday, we use black beans, and instead of beef stir fry, we use tofu. We are not reinventing the wheel with recipes. We are just taking the recipe and substituting some ingredients.”

Patterson said he hopes other army dining facilities will catch onto the trend and offer vegan meals.

Thankfully, it seems that his wish came true. The United States Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown recently began serving elaborate vegan meals in its main dining hall. The students at the training school enjoyed having plant-based options, as 10% identified as vegan in 2020.

Meatless Meals Aren’t Just For Vegans.

They got to choose between creative vegan meals like lemon-turmeric pasta with sundried tomatoes and pistachios, creamy carrot ginger soup, and jackfruit bulgogi bowls.

The meal program became so popular that even non-vegan students chose plant-based options. The training center won an award from PETA, honoring its progress in offering vegan meals.

In 2021, the South Korean defense ministry also confirmed offering vegetarian and vegan meals. While they wanted to accommodate Muslim military enlistees, anyone could ask for meatless meals when they signed up.

In the US, the military keeps a reserve of prepackaged vegan meals, but they’re not for soldiers. A Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) spokesperson revealed that the meals instead get distributed as humanitarian aid to civilians. While they technically aren’t labeled vegan, they contain only minimal animal products such as milk or cheese.

Since vegan foods have a longer shelf life and cost less than animal products, they’re a better choice for humanitarian aid. Also, vegan meals can more easily be made halal.

Plant-based foods have started to catch on worldwide, in both the military and civilian world.


Final Thoughts on Survey Showing Most Military Members Want Vegan Meals

A recent Mercy for Animals survey, which included 226 US service members, found that 81% want vegan meals. Currently, only 17% of meals offer vegetarian options, while none cater to vegans. However, this may change with the passing of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. MFA hopes to bring more awareness that more service members want plant-based options.

In other countries like South Korea, the plant-based diet has also grown in popularity. The military recently began offering vegetarian and vegan options to cater to Muslim enlistees. Several military dining halls in the US have also started serving troops plant-based meals. As veganism grows, we will likely see more schools and other institutions providing vegan options.