No local chicken in Lothian school meals: Green MSP

Research by Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian, shows none of the chicken being served in schools in the region is Scottish, with much of it coming from Holland and Thailand.

Using FoI (Freedom of Information) requests the Green MSP asked East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian and Edinburgh City about the sourcing of chicken for school meals, after the Scottish Government said it did not keep track of such information.

All the Lothian councils use chicken from elsewhere in the UK, along with a product from Thailand.

All of them, except East Lothian, use a product from Holland, and Edinburgh also uses chicken from Brazil and Poland.

None of the UK chicken sourced by these councils is free range; it is all indoor reared.

By contrast councils such as Stirling source 90 per cent of their chicken from Scotland. Stirling is involved in the Soil Association’s Food for Life scheme, which sets standards for sourcing food locally.

Green MSPs are looking at opportunities in the forthcoming Procurement Reform Bill to increase the incentives for buying Scottish produce.

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian and food spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said:

“There shouldn’t be so much of a divide between the pioneer councils and the food laggards when it comes to something as important as our children’s meals. I have longstanding concerns about imported meat and there’s got to be a better way than flying chicken nuggets from Thailand.

“I commend the Food for Life scheme and in light of the horsemeat scandal I feel it is the sort of scheme all public bodies should be adopting with some urgency. We must aim for local, high quality food on our children’s plates as the norm. The Government’s Procurement Bill should be a chance to set some new standards to achieve that aim.

“Councils are under pressure to award contracts on cost rather than make choices that would have positive impacts for the local economy and animal welfare. The Scottish Government’s food policy is too focused on exporting whisky and salmon and needs to do more to get local food used in meals bought with public money.”