Meat Industry INSIGHTS Newsletter

970622 USDA to "OK" Yogurt as Meat Replacement in Schools Lunch Program

USDA is going to officially allow schools to substitute yogurt for meat in their school lunch programs that feed 25 million youngsters throughout the nation.

"Our members are very pleased," said Tami Cline of the American School Food Service Association. "It will not necessarily convert kids eating meat into eating yogurt, but we feel it will draw customers into the school cafeteria."

Under the new rules, four ounces of yogurt would substitute for one ounce of red meat. An individual-size container of yogurt is generally eight ounces.

The USDA currently purchases beef, chicken and turkey for schools to use in their feeding programs, and this year has provided schools with almost 150 million pounds of beef. USDA officials said it was unlikely the agency will buy yogurt due to its perishability, and said the local schools will probably be in charge of making those purchases.

Meat industry officials have opposed the new rule and said they were disappointed in the department's decision, but predicted only minimal impact on meat usage in school lunches because of yogurt's higher cost.

"The cost of yogurt is considerably higher than meat, so this will probably discourage schools from regularly serving it as a meat replacement," said Alisa Harrison of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

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