Schools, hospitals, universities and care homes have been encouraged to sign up to the Public Sector Catering 100 (PSC100) campaign aimed at reducing the amount of meat on menus by 20 per cent, sparking industry concern.
With an estimated 45 million kilograms of meat served in the public sector each year, the campaign, launched in April by PSC100, hopes to cut the figures by 9 million kilograms, with savings equating to 45,000 cows or 16 million chickens.
Andy Jones, chairman of PSC100, said: “I want to make clear at the outset our #20percentlessmeat campaign is not about jumping on the bandwagon and encouraging people not to eat meat, nor is it about supporting a diet fad.
“It is about the health and wellbeing of us all and contributing to a needed reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.
“As public sector caterers, we have the opportunity to influence the diet of the nation and at the same time contribute the wider drive to limit environmental damage. Such changes embody the idea of doing what is right for now and also for future generations.”
The NFU has highlighted its concern about the campaign, since food sustainability is a much wider issue than reducing intake of meat.
NFU deputy president, Stuart Roberts, said: “British farmers have an ambition to produce the most climate-friendly red meat in the world. UK beef emissions are already half that of the global average and our farmers are committed to a net zero future for agriculture.
“Science shows food sustainability is a complex issue. We need to consider the wider implications of our diets and question the sourcing of all of our food, not just our meat products.
“For anyone in the public sector, the question they should be asking is not whether they should be eating meat or not, but where has it been produced, and to what environmental and animal welfare standards?
“We cannot become a world leader in sustainable food production on our own – we need to go on this journey together with the government, education establishments, the health service, the whole supply chain and the public. And sourcing British red meat is a great place to start.”
Supporter of the campaign, Love British Food founder, Alexia Robinson, said despite its inflammatory title, the campaign has the potential to ‘create opportunities for farmers but they will have to work closely with food service to realise them.’
She said: “The intention of the campaign is not to demonise meat. British meat is one of the most sustainable forms of protein we can put on our menu and plays an essential part in a healthy nutritional diet.
“Given many of the public sector’s customers are children, teenagers, the elderly and the unwell, it would be a terrible dereliction of our duty in feeding them to cut out an essential element of a balanced diet.
“What I hope will come out of this campaign is a review of the quality of the meat the sector serves. Less meat provides the opportunity for sourcing higher quality, sustainable, British meat.”