Meat, fish, eggs, beans and non-dairy sources of protein

These standards for meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein help to increase the variety of different foods offered in schools and ensure school food provides enough protein, iron and zinc. The standards for meat products are designed to control the amount of fat, saturated fat and salt in school food, keeping it within recommended levels.

  • A portion of meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein must be provided every day
  • A portion of meat or poultry must be provided on three or more days each week
  • Oily fish must be provided once or more every three weeks
  • A portion of a non-dairy source of protein must be available three or more days each week for vegetarians
  • A meat or poultry product (manufactured or homemade) may not be provided more than once each week in primary schools and twice each
  • week in secondary schools across the school day. The meat or poultry product must also meet the legal minimum meat or poultry content
  • requirements, and must not contain any prohibited offal.

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This food group includes:

Fresh and frozen meat, poultry, fresh, frozen and canned fish, shellfish, eggs, meat alternatives (including products such as soya and Quorn™), tofu, pulses such as beans (cannellini, kidney, pinto, borlotti, haricot, butter, but not green beans), chickpeas, lentils (red, green, brown and puy) and nuts.

Red meat includes beef, lamb, pork, veal, venison and goat.

Poultry includes chicken, turkey and duck.

White fish includes pollock, hake, coley, cod, haddock, and plaice – whether cooked alone, or in a dish such as a casserole or fish pie, or as a breaded or battered product

Oily fish includes fresh, tinned or frozen salmon, sardines, pilchards, mackerel, herring, and fresh or frozen tuna. Tuna only counts as an oily fish when it is fresh or frozen because the omega-3 fatty acids are removed during the canning process.

Non-dairy sources of protein suitable for vegetarians include eggs, meat alternatives made from soya beans (such as soya mince), tofu, QuornTM, pulses such as beans (cannellini, kidney, pinto, borlotti, haricot, butter), chickpeas, lentils and nuts.

Meat products include homemade or purchased meat sausages, burgers, individual pies (e.g. bridies, sausage rolls, Cornish pasties, pork pies), breaded or battered products (e.g. nuggets, goujons, burgers) and corned beef. Ham and bacon are not classed as meat products.


Why do the standards include a requirement to provide oily fish? Will children eat it?

This is about encouraging children to eat more fish containing omega-3 fatty acids, which is good for heart health. Research shows that small tasters are a good way to get children liking new or unfamiliar foods. We’ve got lots of great ideas for child-friendly recipes using oily fish.

Why do the standards say ‘a portion of non-dairy sources of protein must be available three or more days per week?’

This is so that vegetarians are offered a variety of dishes. Cheese-based dishes are often high in saturated fat and salt and this standard helps to limit the number of times these are served as the only vegetarian option.

What does ‘meat product’ mean, and how is this different from meat?

Meat products include sausages, burgers, individual pies and sausage rolls, meatballs and breaded or battered products such as nuggets, goujons or burgers. The standards restrict these to once a week in primary schools, and twice a week in secondary schools. This restriction applies throughout the day. For example, if your primary school provides a meat product once a week at lunchtime, you can’t serve a meat product at any other time or from any other food outlet in school that week.

Meat including roast red meat or poultry, and cuts of meat like diced or minced red or white meat used in dishes like bolognese, chilli, curries, casseroles, and in sandwiches or salads aren’t counted as meat products, and so are not restricted in schools. Bacon and ham aren’t restricted either but they are high in salt – so we wouldn’t recommend serving these every day.

Are homemade meat products restricted too?

Yes – whether you’ve bought them in or made them from scratch in your school kitchen, the same restriction applies. Although the meat used in a homemade burger (which is restricted) may be the same minced beef that is used in a bolognese sauce (which isn’t restricted), the restriction on homemade meat products is about limiting the number of times children can choose these types of foods each week, and to get them trying a wider variety of foods.

On days where we provide pork sausages, can we provide halal chicken sausages an alternative for Muslim children, and count both types of sausage as one meat product?

Yes. It counts as one portion where one meat product is offered at the same time as a direct alternative to another, as in this example.