The town of Westport has a motto: “New England in tradition; cosmopolitan in outlook.” And now, it seems, they can add: “And meatless on Monday.”
Meatless Monday seems to be breaking out all over Westport, a Connecticut suburb that’s equal parts modern and affluent, while retaining its New England charm. For evidence of this, look no further than the Saugatuck Craft Butchery, where a sign on the door says: “Closed for Meatless Monday.”
That’s right. A butcher shop closes for Meatless Monday.
“We were all familiar with the phrase “Meatless Monday,” explains General Manager Samantha Garwin, “but we didn’t know the background or the extent of the campaign until I took an online course offered by Johns Hopkins on public health and the U.S. food system. Peggy Neu, President of The Monday Campaigns, was a speaker in that class, and I was really impressed by her explanation of Meatless Monday and how her team was able to get such a wholesome concept to go viral. That being said, we’ve had “Closed for Meatless Monday” on our front door since the day we opened.”
In part a reaction to the state of America’s industrial food system, but also with a passion on providing customers with the best possible product and “re-wiring” their shopping habits, Craft is an old-school butcher shop with very new ideas.
“Meatless Monday is completely in line with everything our company stands for,” Garwin explains. “Whether it’s breaking down a side of beef or putting on a dinner party, everything that happens at our shop is based on a few core values: quality, transparency, health, and putting people first. We’d make more money if we were open seven days a week, but we’d also make more money if we bought industrially raised beef. Neither are things we’re willing to do, because they would compromise the basic integrity of our business.”
Another Westport establishment that is putting its values into its business model is The Spotted Horse Tavern, which, as of today, June 9, is officially joining Meatless Monday. “We are customers of Craft Butchery,” said George O’Connell, General Manger. “And, we were contacted by Charlene Zeiberg (who is the Connecticut State Council Member for the Humane Society of the United States). So when we met with Charlene and her daughter Brianna, recently named Teen Meatless Monday Ambassador, and through Craft Butchery, we became aware of Meatless Monday. We went to the website and began reading more, and the partners thought it was a good thing to act on.”
On the inaugural menu, the Spotted Horse Tavern will feature 12 meatless dishes, including Wild Mushroom Mac & Cheese, Eggplant Stack, and Spasta, a ‘bird’s nest’ of Steamed Spaghetti Squash and mixed vegetables. For the locals, it seems Meatless Monday could not come fast enough. “We do a lot of promotion through Facebook Boost, and the Meatless Monday campaign which I started has over 10,000 hits,” O’Connell said. All of which means today will be a very busy inaugural Meatless Monday at The Spotted Horse Tavern.
Two customers certain to be in attendance are, as previously mentioned, Westport residents Charlene Zeiberg and her daughter Brianna, a 7th grade middle school student. It addition to Charlene and Brianna bringing the concept of Meatless Monday to The Spotted Horse Tavern, Brianna has a larger goal in mind: the Westport School District.
“I am not a vegetarian,” Brianna explained. “But I know going meat-free one day a week can reduce the risk for cancer, heart disease and obesity.” As part of her Bat Mitzvah project, Brianna pitched the concept of Meatless Monday to the Westport School District at a school board meeting this past May. She offered three overarching reasons: for an individual’s health, for the environment, and for the lives of animals.
And how did a 13-year-old go about generating awareness about Meatless Monday among her peers? Through social media, of course. “I started by setting up a Meatless Monday Instagram page,” says Brianna. “The page is to remind my classmates each week about bringing lunches to school and buying school lunches that are meatless. I told my friends about it, and they started to following it. And now more people are following it each day, sharing their photos and what they are doing for Meatless Mondays. There are people from different states all over the country.”
The Westport school district will not be implementing Meatless Monday for the 2014-15 calendar year but have recently commented that they will investigate the program further and get input from parents and students in the coming school year. Until a decision is made, for now, Brianna can take comfort in the fact that she is putting into action issues that are important to her. “It feels pretty good that I’m able to represent something that can help people in many ways,” says the Meatless Monday Teen Ambassador. “I’m able to say I have a title in the Meatless Monday movement and I’m able to make people more aware that Meatless Monday can help others.”