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.