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An interview with Samantha Davis, Group Procurement and Supply Chain Director for CH&CO

Our Sustainable Catering business development team are excited to be developing our business relationship with CH&CO over the next few months. This will include certification for parts of their business and extends to advice around sourcing higher welfare products and them working with our Soil Exchange team.

We asked Samantha Davis, Group Procurement & Supply Chain Director for CH&CO, for her overview of their policies around the purchase of chicken.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your role and where you work

I am responsible for all the purchasing for the entire group which includes everything from chicken to mobile phones. The team are responsible for 99.6% of all our scope 3 emissions so it is incredibly important that sustainable sourcing is at the heart of everything we do.

CH&CO is a collection of specialist businesses and market-leading brands whose specialism, inspiration and enthusiasm span the hospitality sectors in the UK and Ireland, from workplaces, schools and healthcare to venues, visitor attractions, stadia and events.

Great food and hospitality bring people together whatever the location, whatever the occasion. Exciting and memorable food and service elevate a good experience to an amazing one – and that’s what we’re all about.

We are always innovating and pushing boundaries and our talented teams of chefs and hospitality professionals are always looking for ways to create magic and make a difference.

Exceptional food and service is everything to all our team members and we’re incredibly proud to be Royal Warrant holders.

We’re committed to doing the right thing by our people, communities and planet and this has been recognised with the top three-star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

How many times does chicken feature on a typical weekly menu?

We’re a very diverse business operating across many sectors, so this varies greatly from sector to sector and site to site. But to put a figure on it, I’d say a minimum of once a week.

Does this vary by sector?

Yes, as a diverse business we operate across a varied cross section of hospitality sectors from State Education and workplaces to public facing destinations to hospitality and weddings. We don’t have one size fits all approach!

What are your priorities when developing purchasing contracts for chicken?

ESG (Environmental, Social Governance) is a core focus of our business strategy and sustainability is a priority for all our procurement. We work in partnership with all our providers to purchase chicken that complies to the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC), and also aligns to our antibiotic policy and commitment to the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics (ASOA).

We also work closely with the Humane League on our commitment to the BCC and regularly meet with them to discuss our ongoing work; collaboration in this area, sharing best practice and highlighting the challenges, is important.

CH&CO was one of the more positively scoring contract caterers in a recent report by ASOA that investigated the use of antibiotics in the food supply chain for public sector organisations. By the end of 2024, we have committed to ensure that there is no routine preventative use of antibiotics permitted in all meat, fish, dairy, and eggs served in cafes and restaurants, and the use of colistin – a critical human medicine for treating life threatening infections – will be banned. We have also pledged to record and monitor antibiotic usage within the supply chain on an annual basis. We are really proud of the recognition of the work we have done with the ASOA, who we have worked closely with on our policy.

Do you purchase less chicken than you did twelve months ago?

No, we are in fact purchasing more chicken. This is because our culinary teams are making conscious decisions to reduce the proteins that contribute higher CO2 emissions, choosing those that are lower in Scope 3 emissions instead, including chicken.

What change do you envisage making over the next three years to your chicken purchasing?

Higher welfare is a priority. We are embarking on a number of projects to ensure that we are buying the very best in animal welfare. We have a strong welfare policy and work closely with all our supply partners to ensure that they conform to this policy. I think there will be a move to working closer with processors and farmers to ensure sustainable sourced poultry is at the forefront of their minds.

Do you buy any higher-welfare chicken currently?

We have started a project this year to explore full carcass utilisation with a processor in Wales that supplies higher welfare poultry to the foodservice market. Our goal is to go live with this project by the end of March, and this will see one of our sectors move to 100% BCC chicken. Coupled with going out to the market for the rest of our poultry requirements we will have made strong inroads into our commitment to the BCC before 2026.

If yes how straight forward is it to source and get into your supply chain?

It’s not straight forward, but it’s important to do it. The biggest challenge is balancing the cost and the availability within the marketplace. Foodservice supplies to several sectors who all have different demands, and currently availability in the marketplace is dominated by the retailers. It’s a balance about supporting British farming and higher welfare whilst managing the cost. We are working with our culinary teams to review portion sizes alongside taking some complexities out of the supply chain.

The biggest challenge is the availability within the marketplace. Processors and farmers are not yet producing enough stock to conform to the Better Chicken Commitment, owing to the cost and lower yields. It’s absolutely the right thing to do, however, we are in a chicken and egg situation and without the availability, the ability to change to purely BCC poultry is limited.

What advice would you give to caterers trying to budget to incorporate higher welfare chicken into their supply chains?

Involve clients and culinary teams early, set out your plans and engage with processors. You must be agile and ready to pivot in line with the supply chain.