Meat Free Monday One day a week can make a world of difference

Public sector caterers forging a plant-based future

A new report shows canteens are going ever greener, with provider Compass pledging net zero emissions by 2030

Posted : 4 June 2021

After practically a year without lessons, it has not only been exciting for children across Britain to be back in the classroom in recent months, but also back in the school canteen, getting an idea of what the future will taste like. (Spoiler alert: it’s delicious and nutritious and won’t cost the Earth.)

In schools, universities, hospitals and other public sector buildings, cooks have been rustling up more meat free and plant-based food than ever before. A new report by Public Sector Catering and the Eating Better alliance, based on a poll of almost 90 public sector caterers across 5,000 sites, reveals that canteens are not only aware of their duty to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but actively embracing their mission to serve up more climate-friendly grub.

Last May, Britain’s public sector caterers signed up to the #20percentlessmeat pledge, committing to reduce their use of meat by a fifth. Now they are finding that the big changes to their menus are having a knock-on effect on diners’ choices. Concern about the environment is the biggest reason for this embrace of a more plant-based future, according to 87 per cent of the providers polled, followed by concern about health (87 per cent) and nature loss (84 per cent).

Among the striking statistics in the report are the fact that 80 per cent of caterers have committed to serving less meat; 83 per cent are using up to 20 per cent more plant proteins – beans and pulses, for example – while 60 per cent have upped the amount of meat substitutes they use; 51 per cent said demand for red meat had declined by up to 20 per cent, and 60 per cent said diners were eating less pork and processed meat.

Compass Group, meanwhile, the UK’s largest food services company, has gone even further than the 20 per cent pledge and has committed to reducing its emissions to net zero by 2030. Compass says it is the first in the industry to publish a Climate Net Zero plan and that it wants to be a “catalyst for wider change” that will usher in a more sustainable food system.

To reach net zero, it intends to promote lower-carbon dishes and carbon-footprint labelling; use only reusable or recyclable packaging by the end of 2022; reduce food waste by 50 per cent by 2030; and to swap meat for plant-based protein in a quarter of its dishes by 2025.

“We are calling for a food revolution to fight for our planet,” says the company, which has been serving less meat across its US operations since 2015. “Our size and scale enable us to have a transformative influence on the global food supply. We will commit to making our net zero ambition a business priority and a key indicator of how our business is performing.”

Read the Public Sector Catering/Eating Better report

Read Compass’s Climate Promise

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