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Agenda item

Councillor Copley - Plant-based food

Cambridge City Council declared climate and biodiversity emergencies in 2019, and shared a vision for Cambridge to be Net Zero by 2030. Furthermore, Cambridge City Council has developed a Sustainable Food Policy Statement (in response to an earlier motion by Cllr Oscar Gillespie), and Cambridge Sustainable Food, in which Cambridge City Council is a partner, has been awarded Silver status by Sustainable Food Places and recently announced it is working towards Gold status.


It is increasingly recognised that meat and dairy production is a significant contributor to climate breakdown, with the livestock sector accounting for 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as being a major contributor to global deforestation. The catastrophic effects of climate breakdown mean climate and risk experts predict a world with systemic cascading risks related to food insecurity including food shortages, societal tensions, hunger and malnutrition, unrest and conflict (according to a Chatham house report from 2021), which furthermore predicts a 50% chance of synchronous crop failure in the decade of the 2040s.

As well as a smaller carbon footprint, eating more plant-based foods also reduces the land footprint of our diets and would improve UK food security and self-sufficiency, thereby making our diets more local. We currently import much more food than we export. Meat and dairy is our second biggest food group trade deficit (£4.2 billion pounds a year); we also have a £1.3 billion pound trade deficit in animal feed. In the UK less than 40% of our cereals are eaten by people and almost 60% are fed to livestock: this is a huge food waste issue. East Anglia is predominantly arable farming and there are many local predominantly plant-based food businesses we could support.


The Government commissioned National Food Strategy (July 2021) recommended meat consumption should be reduced by 30% to help food security for future generations, and the Government's independent Climate Change Committee recommended that public bodies should lead the way by promoting plant-based food options. Over 40% of Britons are trying to reduce their meat consumption and 14% already follow a flexitarian diet, but plant-based food options are not consistently available at all events nor food venues. Other countries have taken a stance, for example in Portugal it is a legal requirement for all public catering – including local authority facilities – to provide plant-based food options, and other local authorities such as Oxfordshire County Council have decided to promote plant-based food via serving a fully plant-based menu at Council meetings and events. Locally, the University of Cambridge Catering Service reduced food-related greenhouse gas emissions by a third via replacing beef and lamb with plant-based products.


It is therefore important that Cambridge City Council builds on its achievements to date and leads by example to promote and normalise consumption of plant-based food, recognising that plant-based meals are frequently nutritious and low cost food options. This is in line with its vision for Cambridge City to be net-zero carbon by 2030.


Council therefore resolves to:

1.  Transition to fully plant-based catering for future Council meetings where food is served, ensuring that this is cheaper or the same cost.

2.  Investigate fully the practicalities of using Cambridge City Council Civic events to promote and showcase plant-based food options, alongside displayed information about the climate benefits and relative cost of different protein/food sources. After engaging with a wide variety of catering options (including consideration of social enterprises), bring a costed report of fully plant-based catering options for Civic events to an Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee within 6 months.

3.  Ensure that there are plant-based food options available at all City Council run events which involve catering (ie minimum from at least one caterer), where reasonably possible.

4.  When events occur on City Council open spaces, and where catering is provided, ensure that plant-based options are available (ie minimum from at least one caterer), secured through the use of terms and conditions of hire (where reasonably possible).

5.  Secure through a contract specification when re-tendering for suppliers that plant-based food and drink options are to be available at kiosks on City Council open spaces and Council run cafes (where reasonably possible). Similarly when possible, via future contract specification when re-tendering for suppliers for Council run cafes, specify that vegetable/legume rich plant-based options are listed prominently on menus, above non plant-based options (e.g. jacket potato and baked beans or tomato pasta would be listed above burger and chips).

6.  Continue to work with Cambridge Sustainable Food to promote sustainable (and affordable) food practices throughout the city.