The standard of meals at Highland schools has come under the microscope after if emerged that children are being fed meat imported from Brazil.
Highland Council sources raw chicken for the region’s 216 schools from local suppliers but cooked chicken is imported from farms 6,000 miles away in South America.
Yesterday, an authority spokeswoman said the shortage of cooked chicken was a “national issue” as there was not enough to satisfy demand in the UK.
Neighbouring Moray Council, however, says it is not affected by the problem and that all its chicken products are “sourced locally”.
The revelation has prompted a concerned parent to urge Highland Council to either find a local supplier or remove it from school menus.
Lisbeth Broome, whose 11-year-old son Jerome is a pupil at Kinlochewe Primary School, discovered that Brazilian chicken – with a two-year use by date – was being cooked at lunchtimes at the school after finding a bag of the meat in a freezer.
She said: “There are a huge amount of Scottish suppliers that could provide chickens for schools, whether they are free range or in a shed. Even if the chicken was from an EU country, surely that would be better than Brazil?”
She added: “A wonderful vegetable garden has been created at Kinlochewe Primary and children are taught about the benefits of healthy eating, and then Highland Council serves them chicken from Brazil.
“I have been told that the chicken has been served in schools for a couple of years, and that the cooks have no choice because it is ordered in bulk by the council.”
The Highland Council spokeswoman said that other meat products, including beef, lamb and pork, were supplied by John Munro of Dingwall, while all raw chicken is British.
She said: “The cooked chicken we use is the only meat produce we use which is supplied frozen and this meat fully complies with stringent national, EU and inter- national standards.
“We are actively in discussions with two companies, one local and one national, to explore providing supplies of cooked chicken.
“Any supply must be regular, sustainable and meet the unique operational needs we have across the Highlands.”
In October, the council was one of eight authorities in Scotland to get a commendation for its work with Quality Meat Scotland on sustainability in sourcing policies.
A Moray Council spokesman said: “Our chickens are sourced locally. We try to source all our ingredients locally.”