Shetland Islands Council has said it will continue to focus on “sustainable local supply chains” for its school menus as it keeps an eye on the environmental impact of its dishes.
However catering team leader Neil Beattie said the council is not looking to increase the amount of vegan food for environmental reasons because there appears to be little appetite for plant-based food from families.
He highlighted that having a meat-free day on the standardised menus, which was first put in place across Shetland schools a couple of years ago, did not go down well with some parents.
In 2019, a report from the United Nations said due to the emissions associated with agriculture, reducing meat consumption was one way people could potentially mitigate the impacts of climate change.
A recent UK Government research paper also recommended people “shift dietary habits” towards plant-based foods – although the report was deleted shortly after publication.
Meanwhile global firm Sodexo, which holds catering contracts in Shetland at oil and gas facilities, recently vowed to make one third of its dishes in the UK vegan by 2025 as part of its move towards becoming carbon neutral.
The meat-free day at Shetland school menus came amid a change in national guidelines over the reduction of red meat.
Beattie said the council is “acutely aware of the environmental concerns, but we are focusing more on using sustainable local supply chains”.
All lamb and milk on menus is locally sourced, while all fish is landed in Shetland apart from tuna. There are also hopes to serve Shetland beef in the future.
“Should we see an increase in demand for more vegan dishes we would of course look at this,” Beattie said.
“However, at the moment we have complaints that we have one meat-free day a week, so I don’t think there is an appetite to increase this at the moment in Shetland.”
The council’s school meals service had a stall at the weekend’s Taste of Shetland festival, and Beattie said the team received plenty of positive feedback from parents and children.
Meanwhile Sodexo’s move towards more vegan food is part of a target to be carbon neutral in the UK and Ireland by 2025.
A spokesperson said: “As one of the world’s leading food services providers, we have a critical role to play in helping to transform the food system.
“As part of this, we give our clients and customers healthier and plant-based options which address changing food habits, respond to customer preferences and provide more sustainable choices.”
Reporting by Local Democracy Reporter Chris Cope