Meat production is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the food and catering sector. A complete transition to meat free diets, however, is not an option for many people. Culturally, meat matters and low-carbon vegetarian are often still ignored by consumers in favour of those containing meat.
IntoFood, A new toolkit developed by the Norwegian organisation Intolife, is designed to help food providers reduce the levels of meat in their menus without impacting the taste. Early successes include the development of a tapas range which had a carbon footprint just 10% higher than the existing vegetarian menu. This new menu proved popular with meat eaters who weren’t willing to transition to the vegetarian menu - in four months, the shift in sales has saved the carbon equivalent of that produced by a car travelling 9,500 km.
Intolife are interested in collaboration with others working on low-carbon food and catering.
Freiburg university canteen explores origins of ingredients
Students at the University of Freiburg have been working with the university canteen to discover where their food really comes from. Thousands of students eat in the university’s cafeteria’s each day, but the distance travelled and production procedures applied to different ingredients before they arrive on the plate is often hidden from consumers.
In order to get a better understanding of these procedures, students of the university’s Environmental Governance Master’s Program analysed the provenance and processes used on all the ingredients for two standard meals served in the university canteen: Beef Stroganoff with Ribbon-noodles and salad, and Aubergine and Carrot Masala with rice, dip and salad.
The information was then compiled in two infographics which are on display in the university canteens and on the university student services website, in order to provide students with food for thought on the global nature of the food supply chain.
For the last decade, the Scottish government has been focussing on improving the quality and sustainability of food that is produced, purchased and consumed in Scotland. The most recent iteration of this policy can be found in the ‘Good Food Nation’ report, which promotes the idea that social equality means access to good food and nutrition in schools, hospitals, prisons and in universities and colleges which act as role models for sustainable public catering. Better Eating, Better Learning (March 2014) sets the agenda for the coming decade to drive further improvements to both school food and food education in Scotland and places school food in a strategic context within local authorities and schools.
These policies are accompanied by a strong legal framework, which has been introduced in the Scottish parliament over the last few years. The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill, for example, was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 3 October 2013. It lays out a national national legislative framework for sustainable public procurement, placing a duty on relevant contracting authorities to comply. The Bill aims to support local economic growth by delivering social and environmental benefits, supporting innovation and promoting transparent, streamlined and equitable procurement processes.
Food waste is an important area to consider when it comes to sustainable catering. Partly, this is because the emissions related to food waste are both high and unnecessary. Each year, an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food gets wasted globally. In fact, according to the President of Germany’s Federal Environment Agency Maria Krautzberger, if food waste was a country it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. In Germany alone, food waste accounts for some 4% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
The second reason that food waste is such an important topic is that it is one where simple solutions are easily available. Individuals can lower household foodwaste levels by purchasing less, ensuring they use up leftovers and ensuring that food is stored better. Restaurants, canteens and catering companies can also reduce their waste levels, either by monitoring what is wasted and purchasing less of it or redistributing leftover food to food banks and other social schemes.
In the INNOCAT Best Practice Report on School Catering, we found numerous examples of school canteens doing just this. From systems where pupils ordered food in advance to ensure more accurate amounts were prepared to canteens providing discount meals for socially disadvantaged individuals, schools across Europe are stepping up and addressing the challenge of food waste head on.