Family attractions in the UK are serving more local ingredients and British meat despite battling with rising ingredient costs and staff shortages, according to a Soil Association investigation.
The food and farming charity has ranked 16 of the UK’s leading attractions in a new league table after an army of “secret diner” parents helped to assess the quality of food on offer.
The Out to Lunch campaign found that nine of the attractions are sourcing local ingredients and that half of them are sourcing 100% British meat compared to a third in 2018 when the investigation last visited.
Good examples of local sourcing included Cornish meat at the Eden Project, a large variety of Scottish produce at both Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and Kelvingrove, and Chester Zoo won points for sourcing meat and dairy from Cheshire and the Ribble Valley.
Soil Association Head of Food Policy Rob Percival said:
“We are really pleased to see visitor attractions supporting local, British farmers. Some of these attractions are really leading the way in sourcing ingredients that are not only British but produced on their doorsteps in their local area. It is particularly encouraging to see this when we know caterers deal with rising prices, staff shortages and supply chain disruption. It is a testament both to the efforts of the attractions, and to the quality of British products.”
Becky Fenner, Eden's Hospitality Manager, said:
“We are delighted to have come top of the Out to Lunch league table. The Eden Project’s mission centres around building relationships between people and planet to demonstrate the power of working together for the benefit of all living things. Central to this is our food story. We explore ways to deliver Earth-friendly food at scale using a food system rather than a food product approach, finding ways of producing food in a regenerative system that is climate positive, increases biodiversity and enhances soil health. Healthy planet – healthy people.”
Lack of transparency
Concerningly, five attractions failed to answer the Soil Association’s questions.
Percival added: “Serious concerns must be raised when an attraction doesn’t come clean about their ingredient sourcing. What are they trying to hide? Rising ingredient costs are putting a huge strain on caterers, but transparency across our food chain is not only what parents are demanding, it’s the only way we can meet our environmental goals.”
Opportunity for British produce
The investigation also focused on healthy food, particularly for children, and uncovered a shocking lack of vegetables on offer.
Less than half of these leading attractions are serving veg with every kid’s meal – while adults are offered a much larger and diverse menu with more choices to eat healthily.
But in response to the campaign, nine destinations have now committed to serving veg with every kid’s meal – providing another opportunity to support British farmers.
This would also help to meet parents' expectations, after the investigation found having a range of children’s meals and healthy options were the top priorities for parents on a day out.
More than half of parents surveyed chose one of these options as their number one priority, compared to just 1% who picked “treat” or “junk” food
“Everyone likes a treat, but our secret diner parents told us they want diverse and exciting children’s menus. They also want attractions to make it easy for their youngsters to enjoy a healthy meal on days out – some of these attractions simply must do better.
“Offering more veg isn’t that difficult or expensive and the tens of thousands of kids meals being served by these attractions provide an excellent opportunity to support the production of healthy, sustainable food here in the UK.
“There is little variation in meal prices between the top and bottom of the league table, and several high performing attractions have free entry, so some of these attractions simply must do better.”
For more information on the campaign and for a full profile for each attraction, visit www.soilassociation.org/outtolunch.