Farmers urge Scottish school bosses to prioritise local produce

Holyrood must deliver on its commitment to create a ‘Good Food Nation’ by guaranteeing that every school meal, where possible, is made entirely from Scottish produce, NFUS has urged.

It comes as Scotland announces it will become the first part of the UK to set maximum limits for consumption of red processed meat over the course of the school week, which will also reduce exposure to harmful nitrites.

The move is part of an attempt to make school food healthier through increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables served and significantly reducing the amount of sugar available throughout the school day.

The regulations will come into effect by autumn 2020 to allow councils time to plan their menus and supply chains.

NFU Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to insist that local authorities prioritise local produce.

Given that the timetable for change set by the Scottish Government is autumn 2020, the process of sourcing and securing local produce for school meals to be served in 15 months’ time must start now.

As well as urging Scottish Government to drive a higher inclusion of Scottish produce on menus, NFU Scotland said there was also the opportunity to link that to a better understanding for pupils of where the food has come from and how it’s produced.

NFUS president Andrew McCornick said: “The overall benefit to Scotland of a healthy, well-fed nation with a thriving food and drink industry cannot be understated.

“Scotland is home to producers of the best beef, lamb, soft fruit and vegetables, milk, eggs, pigs, poultry, crops and potatoes. The raw material of Scottish-produced food and drink is sustainable, healthy and nutritious.

Headline-grabbing dietary recommendations around consumption levels of processed red meat in the diet are not new but the Scottish Government’s intention to write these into school meal requirements by next autumn must be used as an opportunity.

“Red meat, whether process or unprocessed, is a valued source of high-quality, natural protein, vitamins and minerals and if it is truly committed to being a Good Food Nation, then Scottish Government must insist that every gram of red meat on the school menu – in whatever form – should be Scotch.

“In the same vein, as valuable protein and nutrient sources, Scottish milk, eggs and chicken should be the first choice.

“What would be wholly unacceptable would be any further move towards imported protein sources such as imported chicken and pork or soya-based meat alternatives.

“Getting Scottish food onto Scottish school menus needn’t present a challenge. We spearheaded a project in Tayside schools last year that will put more Scotch lamb on school menus in that area this year. That shows what can be achieved and can be applied to all food groups.

“That approach, driven by the Scottish Government, should be rolled out across all local authority areas as clear commitments to using fresh, tasty local produce can work. Setting up those chains must start now.”

Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) chief executive Alan Clarke added: “It is very important that children have a balanced diet and lean beef, lamb and pork make a valuable contribution to the diet of children and people of all ages, providing a valuable source of high-quality, natural protein and vitamins and minerals.

“Clearly it is also important that a balance is achieved and foods high in salt or fat, including some processed meats, should be eaten in moderation.

“It is vital that people understand what sets the Scottish red meat industry apart in terms of the quality of its beef, lamb and pork, which is underpinned by world-leading quality assurance standards and has earned a global reputation for quality and taste.

“QMS will shortly be launching a campaign to highlight the integrity of our red meat industry and the care and commitment which goes into producing first-class red meat which is at the heart of Scotland’s natural larder.”