skip to content




We've just published our 'Sustainable Food Journey' which reports back on the progress of our Sustainable Food Policy over the last 3 years - including our headline finding of a 33% reduction in carbon emissions! Download the report here.

Sustainable Food Policy

At the University of Cambridge, the University's Catering Services (UCS) have introduced in a number of sustainable food initiatives to reduce the negative environmental impact of the food we eat. The University's new Sustainable Food Policy (click the link to download) aims to address issues such as: 

  • Offer no ruminant meat and reduce the offering of other meat.
  • Reduce the consumption of dairy products.
  • Promote the consumption of more plant-based foods.
  • Reduce food wastage.
  • Source food and other products locally where possible.
  • Ensure that products are traded fairly throughout the supply chain.
  • Ensure that we provide fish from sustainable sources, limiting the impact on threatened stocks and through the environmental impacts of aquaculture.
  • Ensure that animal welfare standards are adhered to, including through adherence to Red Tractor Assured standards as minimum.
  • Communicate the commitment to sustainable food to customers, staff and suppliers our commitment to serving sustainable food.
  • Do not sell any single use plastic bottles and reduce the use of all plastic packaging.
  • Continue to implement forward-thinking sustainability best practice.

The Sustainable Food Policy was originally launched at an event at University Centre in Cambridge on the 2 February 2016. Watch our video below to find out what happened, and what people thought!

Sustainable Food Policy - implementation

Among the initiatives which have already been brought in by the University Catering Service to deliver the policy are:

  • Ruminants (beef and lamb) have been removed from UCS menus (excluding Main Dining hall and Riverside Restaurant in the University Centre).
  • The Main Dining Hall no longer serves a ruminant meat main option every day.
  • An increase in tasty vegetarian and vegan options at the Cafes and Main Dining Hall, with chefs having been trained in vegetarian and vegan cooking.
  • A new vegetarian catering menu has been introduced.
  • Use of Vegware compostable packaging and provision of compost bins across all UCS outlets
  • Removing single-use plastics, including by providing tap water for customers, and ensuring that soft drinks are provided in glass bottles or aluminium cans rather than plastic bottles.
  • Water refill stations are available at all UCS outlets as well as within all catering operations managed by UCS. Our locations are included on the Refill app.
  • Keep Cups which are sold at Cafes to reduce waste associated with disposable cups; use is encouraged through a 20p discount on hot drinks.

Wider impact and influencing others

The University Catering Service are working to have an influence beyond its own operations. This includes:

All catering companies included on the University's preferred supplier list are signed up to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Food Policy. Together, Product Specification (seasonality, local sourcing, vegetarian, vegan and those with special diets) and Sustainability (the ability to adhere to the University's Sustainable Food Policy) account for 40% of the weighting in the scoring system for any new tender.

The University Catering Service and College Caterers are members of the Catering Managers Committee (CMC). Sustainability criteria is included in all CMC contracts.

Many contract categories organised by the CMC do not use national frameworks. This allows the University to buy meat, vegetables and fruit from local suppliers.

We've worked with #NoBeef to develop a 'change pack' for universities, schools, offices, restaurants etc. which aims to show that removing beef and lamb is not only better for the environment, but also straight-forward, safer, healthier and more profitable.

Working with the Colleges

On 29 November 2018 a second Sustainable Food Policy was adopted by all College caterers. The University Catering Service and College caterers collaborate and share best sustainability practice termly within the Catering Managers Committee (CMC) Sustainability Sub-group. Read more about what the Colleges, and other parts of the University, are doing on sustainable food.

Want to emulate the University of Cambridge's Sustainable Food Policy in your organisation?

We've worked with #NoBeef to develop a 'change pack' for universities, schools, offices, restaurants etc.

This aims to show that removing beef and lamb is not only better for the environment, but also straight-forward, safer, healthier and more profitable.

Visit #NoBeef's website for more useful resources. 


Sustainable food award

We've won two sector awards for our work on sustainable food! Read more about our winning entry to the Green Gown Awards 2017 here and Sustainability award from The Universities Catering Organisation (pictured below, Catering Manager Paula White and Operations Manager Nick White). We've also been shortlisted as a top 10 entrant to a global solution search designed to identify, reward, and spotlight innovative solutions for addressing climate change.