More plants on the menu for public sector caterers

A huge majority of public sector caterers are serving more plant proteins and less meat across their menus, new research has found.

Four out of five (80%) caterers who took part in a survey by Eating Better and PSC100 group (Public Sector Catering) said they had committed to reducing meat content across menus while 83% have increased plant proteins such as beans, lentils and soya in dishes by up to 20%.

Around 90 caterers, representing 5,000 sites across the UK, including schools, universities, hospitals, care homes and prisons were surveyed. Almost two thirds (60%) have been using more meat substitutes, while 51% said demand for red meat had dropped by up to a fifth and 60% said there had been reductions in both pork and processed meat.

More than 20%, however, are using more chicken in dishes. Chicken tends to have a lower carbon footprint than red meat, however campaigners have highlighted problems with the environmental impact of imported chicken feed that has been linked to deforestation.

Of those surveyed, 60% said they would like to buy better meat and dairy, produced to higher animal welfare and environmental standards, but often cost is a barrier to change.

The main drivers of change are concerns about the climate (87%), individual health (86%) and nature loss (84%).

Eating Better and PSC100 group said the results of the poll reflected the momentum building behind meat reduction across the public sector and support the PSC100 initiative, launched just over a year ago, to reduce meat and dairy consumption by 20%.

“The public sector is the guardian of the nation's health and this report shows it’s listening to customer and staff concerns about climate, wellbeing and creating a more sustainable food chain,” said Andy Jones, chair of the PSC100 Group.

This week the UK’s largest contract caterer, Compass Group UK & Ireland, set out a target for a 40% switch towards plant-based proteins by 2030, with an interim target of at least 25% by 2025, as part of a commitment to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

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