A quest for happy chickens, from barn to organic by John Barrett, Catering Manager (Halls) London School of Economics
Before we joined Food for Life Served Here we bought the cheapest available eggs, predominately, to stick to our food costs, which were a challenge to manage as three of our sites were on a cash-based system, where the students came down to eat on a pay as you go basis. However, our fourth site was on a one meal daily inclusive basis, which from day one was a huge success for both us as caterers and the students. They were getting at least one cooked meal a day (happy student, happy parents!) and we were able to manage the food costs far more effectively and efficiently (happy manager, happy staff!). So, the three other sites were eventually moved over to a one meal inclusive daily as well.
We decided to get involved with Food for Life Served Here once all sites were up and running. Just getting the bronze award was an achievement for us. However, the more we got involved with the Food for Life ethos, the more we wanted to do to ensure high animal welfare and local ingredients where possible. Ultimately, we were looking for some quick fixes to begin achieving our goals, so we switched to free range eggs, with no major effect to our food costs. This was mainly due the high student uptake and careful menu planning, so all was well for a few years, happy students, yes tick, happy chickens…or were they? Or could they be happier? Well yes, we thought, they would be far happier if they were running around and getting fresh air, so we made the decision to go organic in the halls.
But oh my! the cost was doubling…what could we do? Well we all got our heads together (no chickens involved)! Played around with our various costs and said yes! We would give it a go, first in one hall and then see what happened. All was ok, the food cost increased, but not nearly as much as we thought, and the other sites joined as well. Yes, our costs have increased, but through careful menu planning we are now on fairly even keel. The result? We get our egg through our local greengrocer Foodari, based in East Sussex, who in turn gets them delivered from The Mac`s Farm also based in Sussex, who only supply organic eggs! So, we now only use organic eggs in all our egg-based products and breakfasts including scrambled eggs. Our feedback from both students and vacation guests has been very positive, in that we get nothing but praise form guests in particular, at breakfast service on appearance and taste. So, everyone is happy, in particular, the chickens at the Mac`s farm.
As each year passes by, more and more students are expecting higher welfare from our farmed animals and in the dishes, we provide. Following a recent visit to the Mac`s farm we were really taken aback by the commitment from the staff and the pitfalls they overcome daily from the day to day running of their business. We are going feature their farm in this new academic term to promote what they do their and invite a group of students to go and visit, because as more and more people begin to engage, the happier chickens we will have!
Supporting caterers through the Food for Life Supplier Scheme by Jonathan Parker from Foodari
We started to work with LSE a few years ago as they commenced their FFL journey and wanted to use much more local seasonal produce. Through regular updates and farm visits, for catering managers and chefs, we have been able to help them identify what is in season and at its best. As a result they have created menus that change with the seasons and give their students variety throughout the year. Critically by working with truly local produce we have also been able to provide this within budget.
As LSE set their sights on silver FFL we started to supply organic eggs from Macs farm. Julia has a wonderful set up, they live the values of what organic is about, so we were delighted to help with supply. Their eggs are the best I’ve tasted, and they are local as well as organic so tick all boxes for us! I would recommend a stay on their campsite so you can see it for yourself.
Find out more about the Food for Life Supplier Scheme here.