Ian Platt, supply chain general manager at WSH, is the driving force behind the move to source only free range eggs from a single, family-owned farm for its BaxterStorey, Caterlink and Holroyd Howe businesses from 4 October. He spoke to Janie Stamford about how buying British can benefit everybody.
Caterer What prompted the switch to free range eggs?
Ian Platt WSH looks to support the UK farming industry, as well as the welfare of animals, and eggs were the logical next step after our move to sourcing only British meat last year. We've done the bacon and so, to make the perfect British breakfast, we needed to do the eggs.
Caterer Was it difficult to do?
IP It wasn't a big challenge because unlike bacon, where there are many different varieties from which to choose, a medium egg is a medium egg. Staveley's Eggs is a new supplier introduced to us by 3663 and it will be supplying us with about 7.5 million eggs - which represents about 18% of its total free range output.
Caterer Will it cost more?
IP It is a bit more expensive but by working directly with the farmer we have got the cost to within just a 5% increase, which translates to roughly a penny for every egg. Normally the difference is about 35-40%. It's a good deal for us but also a good deal for the farmer, because there's no point in getting a price that the farmer can't make a living from.
Caterer Do you think more contract caterers will do the same?
IP The food service industry will follow what the consumer wants and, if the demand is there, the supply will catch up. Over time you could move the whole of the UK over to free range but the question is would everybody be prepared to pay for it? Take the public sector. In a time of cost efficiency it could argue that it can't afford to do it. I have a different view.
Caterer How could the public sector buy British without blowing the budget?
IP By combining its purchasing rather than acting as disparate departments. Any purchaser will tell you that if you consolidate volume you can improve the price for everybody. While the government has to be mindful of EU anti-competition law that says it cannot be protectionist about only buying UK produce, UK animal welfare standards are the highest in Europe, if not the world. We should be using our position to demand that standard and, if the European partner can meet that standard, that's better for everybody.
Caterer What's the next project to support British farming?
IP We expect to start working on dairy at the end of this year. It will take a lot longer because we need to find the right products. But it's not just food - we look at every area of the business in terms of the environment and/or the provenance and sustainability of it within the UK.