MEAT for Staffordshire school dinners will only be sourced from farms in the county, the county council has announced, in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.
Staffordshire County Council withdrew beef from school menus last week as revelations of incorrectly labelled meat products – including supermarket ready meals containing horsemeat – shocked the nation.
But when pupils return to school next week after their half term breaks they will be able to tuck in to beef once more – sourced from farms on their doorsteps.
County councillor Mark Winnington said: “We have every confidence in our suppliers, however while this story continues to be in the news it seemed sensible to offer an alternative meal, where beef is not Farm Assured and sourced in the UK.
“As a council we are committed to promoting and using local produce as much as possible and are currently expanding a pilot scheme in schools where only meat from Staffordshire farms is used. This is being rolled out across the county.
“While there is absolutely no suggestion that there is any problem with any of the beef supplied we wanted to take a belt and braces approach.”
The NFU has welcomed the scheme as a boost to local farms.
Other ingredients already used in school meals – supplied by the county council to 87 per cent of Staffordshire Schools – include locally sourced free range eggs, milk from Staffordshire farms distributed by Staffordshire dairies, award winning quality assured pork and Red Tractor farm assured roast chicken.
NFU regional director John Mercer said: “Staffordshire County Council has excellent food procurement policies, sourcing from the local area when they can, and they have always been very supportive of the farming community.
“They have also committed to look at ways to source more meat from Staffordshire farms, which is a welcome move and will be a boost to our members within the county.
“We want to emphasise to Staffordshire shoppers that the horse meat scandal has nothing to do with the integrity of UK farmed products. Those seeking reassurance in the food they buy should look to 100 per cent British produce for confidence and look for the Red Tractor mark.
“Products that carry the Red Tractor logo have been independently inspected to accredited standards and are traceable from farm to pack. We would also urge the public to continue to buy quality cuts of meat, support local traders like butchers and take advantage of the great farm produce that is available at farm shops, on supermarket shelves and in the high street.”