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House of Commons: Catering

Volume 471: debated on Monday 28 January 2008

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if he will make a statement on the use of (a) free-range chicken, eggs, other poultry and pork, (b) organic food and (c) fair trade products in House of Commons catering. (181954)

The information requested is as follows:

(a) Free-range chicken, eggs, other poultry and pork: free range chicken accounted for 10 per cent. of the catering service's total chicken purchases for calendar year 2007. The catering service has quickly reacted to recent consumer demand and increase in awareness and have now completely moved away from intensively reared poultry. A species called Devonshire Red has been sourced which is corn fed and Freedom Foods (RSPCA) monitored; currently discussions are taking place with the supplier for a longer term relationship if consistency of supply and price can be guaranteed.

Since February 2002 catering services have purchased only free range eggs from Ashford in Kent and in 2007 were awarded a Good Egg Award which recognised continued leadership on eggs, helping to promote animal welfare and corporate social responsibility in the food industry.

Apart from chicken, no other poultry purchases are free range or Freedom Foods monitored. However the Purchasing Department is currently engaged in the sourcing of better quality, higher welfare products to include turkey, duck, and guinea fowl.

Pork purchases are all classed as free range and come from West Sussex.

(b) Organic food: the catering service does not keep records that specifically identify organic purchases and so it is not possible to put a value on this expenditure. The issues of consistency and availability are still prevalent in this area, consequently purchasing of organic products is restricted to branded, pre-packed goods, such as sandwiches, salads, yoghurts, biscuits, cakes, etc. which offer some guarantee and assurances of quality.

(c) Fair trade products: in 2007 the catering service purchased 72 fair trade food and beverage products throughout the estate including fresh fruit, juices, coffee, tea, chocolate, cakes, cookies, biscuits, tropical whole foods, smoothies and sugar. Spend for these items was £62,137. 11 fair trade souvenir items are available for sale, for example wooden picture frames (India), stationery (Nepal), coffee (Kenya). A regular supply of fair trade chocolate is currently being arranged. Two fair trade wines are sold in the House's dining and banqueting rooms. Fair-trade products are used when supply and quality can be guaranteed.

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if he will make a statement on the origin of veal products used in House of Commons catering. (181955)

Over the last year, the catering service has spent approximately £5,000 on veal, 40 per cent. on meat including offal (£2,000) and the remainder on bones (£3,000).

The majority (91 per cent.) of veal meat products purchased are small speciality cuts, and come from a well-established company in Holland (as do all the bones). It is the world's largest veal producer and has an excellent traceability system (back to a specific animal) and a guarantee that the veal is free of growth promoters, hormones and b-agonists. Quality systems are based on HACCP and are BRC compliant which surpass international standards. Animal welfare is of utmost importance and the calves are given diets that are high in fibre (and not iron deficient), generous space allowances, and adequate bedding. All the calves are accommodated in groups in spacious, well-ventilated and well-lit stables.

The remainder (9 per cent.) was purchased from UK suppliers which have the highest standards and best welfare practices for veal production, but not the availability and consistency of supply.