Um, Pizza Hut, what’s going on here? More than 6,000 U.S. locations of the American restaurant chain are adding 25 percent MORE cheese to their pizzas as part of an industry-wide dairy checkoff program with Dairy Management Inc (DMI). The change will require 150 MILLION POUNDS of milk and came about after DMI shared “insights” to convince Pizza Hut that consumers want more cheese on pizzas.
But here’s the thing: consumers don’t want more cheese. Pizza Hut locations in the U.K. and Australia recently added a dairy-free cheese option to their menus and surprise, surprise, the response was overwhelmingly positive. “After an amazing customer response to our vegan cheese trial earlier this year, we’re pleased to announce that the dairy-free alternative will now be served in all of our restaurants nationwide and feature as a permanent fixture on our menus,” said Gareth Hopley, Pizza Hut Restaurant’s head of communications in the U.K.
The reality is consumers are turning away from dairy and opting for plant-based alternatives. This is a very real trend that has been happening for a long time. In fact, one-third of consumers prefer dairy-free milk, and dairy consumption has been on a steady decline since the 1970s. From concerns over allergies, antibiotic and hormone use, not to mention animal welfare concerns, and the environmental damage the dairy industry is wreaking on the planet, plant-based alternatives are soaring.
Pizza Hut’s adding more cheese to their pizzas will mean even MORE water required to hydrate cows, clean milking parlor floors, walls, and milking equipment. The dairy industry also contributes four percent of total global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Not to mention runoff from dairy farms has been linked to ocean dead zones and also public health disasters like Blue Baby Syndrome.
Pizza Hut’s decision to add more cheese to U.S. restaurant locations seems like a last-ditch effort to prop up the dying dairy industry. Thanks to subsidies and check-off programs that encourage this failing industry, the U.S. currently has 1.2 BILLION pounds of excess cheese just sitting around. Sure, Pizza Hut’s cheese addition will take care of a few hundred million pounds of cheese … but that HARDLY scratches the surface. The real question is why is the government rewarding an industry that consumers don’t support? (If we only had a nickel for every time we said that…)
There is a life raft for dairy farmers and the dairy industry to get on the plant-based train. Heck, meat giants like Tyson and Cargill are doing in – and there are actually a number of dairy conglomerates who have acquired plant-based milk companies as well. California dairy farmers are switching to almond crops, and even a 92-year-old dairy plant that was forced to close due to a decline in sales recently reopened as a plant-based milk company. Plus, there’s a lot of money in vegan options – Goldman Sachs recently invested in Silicon Valley start-up Ripple Foods, makers of the popular pea protein milk.
Rather than adding MORE cheese to their pizzas, Pizza Hut needs to add vegan cheese to their menu in the U.S. If you agree, please sign this Care2 petition, which will be directly delivered to Pizza Hut’s CEO, David W. Gibbs, and be sure to SHARE the petition within your network!
To learn more about the environmental impact of our food choices as well as trends and developments in the plant-based food space, check out our podcast #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias.
Image Source: Irina Souiki/Flickr