The catering industry leaders involved in public sector meals provision explain why they support the move to curb meat consumption.
Matt White, chair of The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO)
“TUCO is fully committed to the #20percentlessmeat initiative that is being led by public sector caterers right across the UK. Following our TUCO winter conference at Cardiff University late in 2019, which focused on sustainability, delegates were left in no doubt that we have a very short window of opportunity to make changes in the way we all eat or we will have done irreparable damage to our planet and to future generations.
“To ensure there are enough resources for us all, we need to make positive changes in our diets and the way we as hospitality professionals cater. And one clear way to do that is to reduce the amount of animal protein in our diets. TUCO is committed to providing its members with a series of tools that will enable change, empower chefs and delight customers.
“We are focusing on reducing meat consumption, but not eliminating it. Our customers demand choice and as caterers it is our job to offer a wide range of exciting dishes that encourage customers to make choices that will benefit both them personally, as well as the wider community and indeed the health and wellbeing of our entire planet.
“The TUCO Academy runs courses for caterers that focus on plant-based diets, working closely with the fabulous Vanilla Black, showcasing how plant-based dishes can be the keynote on any menu.
“We have been helping chefs reduce animal protein by working closely with The Humane Society International and replacing 20% of the meat in a recipe with tasty alternatives such as wild mushrooms, lentils, beans and vegetables. The customer isn’t necessarily aware that the caterer has taken these steps, in fact through blind tasting we have found that in lots of cases the adapted dish can win out on taste and flavour.
“Little steps make big impacts and #20percentlessmeat is a little step with a great big kick, so we are urging TUCO members to get creative and deliver great meat and plant based meals that provide our customers with the choice they demand but at the same time we are catering sustainably and reducing the impacts of our operations on the planet and its resources.”
Craig Smith, chair of Hospital Caterers Association (HCA)
“Hospital catering has a very specific purpose in feeding those who are needing treatment for one reason or another. Some patients like expectant mums may be otherwise completely healthy, whilst someone with complex medical conditions will require special attention.
“To help manage such a complex range of catering, the hospital caterer and the dietitians must work very closely to achieve the right balance of nutritional requirements within a healthy and interesting menu.
“Offering menus that both patients and staff will find enjoyable must also take into account current feeding trends. Ten years ago, it would have been inconceivable to believe that items such as ramen or kokoro bowls would be considered as an option for a patient’s menu, but now things like this are being requested.
“The biggest rise we are seeing is those demanding a more plant-based diet, the current figures are astonishing; a Google Trend report claims interest in 'veganism' increased seven fold in the five years between 2014 and 2019. This demand cannot be ignored, neither can the claims that meat production contribute to climate change and the addition of nitrites into processed meats can cause harmful effects in the long-term.
“It is for these reasons that the Hospital Caterers Association is pleased to be supporting the #20percentlessmeat initiative.”
Sue Cawthray, chair of the National Association of Care Catering (NACC)
“The health and sustainability benefits of reducing meat in the diet and increasing protein intake from plant-based sources has been widely documented. As an association that champions eating for health and is committed to helping our members find ways to operate in a more sustainable way, we support the #20percentlessmeat initiative.
“There will always be challenges when introducing changes to the menu, such as special dietary requirements and allergens. These, however, apply to all sectors of the industry and the skilled care teams and chefs will work together to ensure individual needs are safely met.
“I would say, currently, our biggest challenge to meeting the 20% target is the mindset of many of those in care homes or using meals on wheels services and lunch clubs. The majority would have been brought up on a staple diet of ‘meat and veg’ and will be resistant to change and, perhaps, sceptical and nervous of unfamiliar meat-free options.
“It’s therefore be important to introduce small changes gently, through meat-free meals or days and tasting sessions, for example. And, we must talk to residents about why the changes are being made so that they understand and feel part of something positive.”
Molly Shaher, chair of the Professional Association of Catering Education (PACE)
“The #20percentlessmeat initiative is a great incentive for all - from schools, colleges, university into industry. Reducing meat intake in colleges by 20% supports the environment and gives students insight into how they can be part of reducing CO2 emissions and can consciously support efforts to limit climate change. As students enter the world of college, life choices and food are at the forefront of their minds.
“The 20% meat reduction gives them awareness of what choices they can make and the benefits it can have on society and on themselves. It is our responsibility to grow awareness among young people about the food choices, trends and options that they now can have as students within the wider world.
“We need to be mindful that some of the younger generations lack knowledge about the benefits of good food and the choices that are available. We must help embed within them an understanding of why reducing meat intake by 20% percent can support them while they going through an important growth stage - both mentally and physically.”
Jayne Jones, chair ASSIST FM
“ASSIST FM believes that we need to ensure that school meals in Scotland meet the demands of our children and young people, including providing menus and choices that reflect their tastes. That includes less reliance on red and red processed meat, and means providing more plant-based choices.
“In Scotland, the amount of red and red processed meat that can be served across a school day will reduce significantly from autumn 2020, with the revised Food and Drink in Schools requirements making provision for this due to the potentially negative impact that eating too much red and red processed meat can have on health.
“It is encouraging to see that other public sector organisations are also committing to reducing their reliance on red meat, but it is important to ensure that we still offer a choice, and when red meat is on offer that it should be high quality, farm assured or marked as Quality Meat Scotland.
“Committing to #20percentlessmeat can support industry, positive choices for good health and a commitment to ensuring that climate change is a high priority for our industry.”
Stephen Forster, chair of LACA, the school food people
"LACA and teh school food industry are leading the way on meat reduction, schools across the country have meat free days and are increasingly introducing plant based, vegetarian and vegan alternatives. We therefore support the #20percentlessmeat campaign."
Alexia Robinson, founder of Love British Food
“I am nervous about this campaign. If we are not very careful with the messaging associated it could be misconstrued to demonise meat. That would be a shame because I understand from my fellow PSC100 colleagues that this is absolutely not its intention.
“British meat is one of the most sustainable forms of protein we can put on menus. Our grazing lands have hugely positive impact on carbon sequestration, biodiversity, providing habitats and food for wildlife, while utilising agricultural land unsuitable for cropping. And red meat is rich in so many of the minerals and vitamins that are an absolutely essential part of a healthy nutritional diet.
“Given that 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.
“That said, the culture of a ‘burger a day’ or meat with every meal is not sustainable in an expanding global population; and too much meat, as with too much of anything, is not a healthy option.
“What I hope will come out of this campaign is a review of the quality of the meat that the public sector serves. Less meat gives the opportunity for sourcing higher quality meat. And by higher quality, I mean sustainable British meat produced with high animal welfare standards and with none of the growth hormones, uncontrolled use of antibiotics and factory farmed stocking densities that define much meat produced elsewhere.
‘Less is More’ is my preferred campaign tag. Buy British!”
Join us in reducing meat
If you are caterer working in the public sector then please consider pledging to cut the amount of meat you serve by 20% by signing up at: www.20percentlessmeat.co.uk