The majority of chicken served to pupils in school meals is imported and indoor-reared, it has emerged.
While school caterers serve poultry from as far away as Thailand, jailed prisoners across Scotland are given fresh quality meat which is sourced in Scotland, the Scottish Green Party has said.
A freedom of information request by the Greens found that six out of seven Scottish cities imported poultry for school dinners, months after the Government admitted to not keeping track of this information.
School meals served in Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth, Glasgow and Edinburgh were found to contain no Scottish chicken at all, while all of the chicken sourced from other parts of the UK by these councils was indoor reared rather than free range.
Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Perth and Aberdeen all receive chicken products from Thailand, while Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth and Inverness also source meat from the Netherlands.
The only exception is Stirling, which gets 90% of its chicken from Scotland and ten per cent from the rest of the UK because of its involvement in the Soil Association’s Food for Life scheme, which sets standards for local food sourcing.
Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian, said: “I have long standing concerns about imported meat and there’s got to be a better way than flying chicken nuggets from Thailand.
“We must aim for local, high quality food on our children’s plates as the norm. There shouldn’t be so much of a divide between the pioneer councils and the food laggards when it comes to something as important as our children’s meals.”
Ms Johnstone said she understood that councils were under pressure to award contracts based on cost, but said this could lead to decisions which “do not have positive impacts on the local economy and animal welfare”.
She added: “The Scottish Government’s food policy is too focused on exporting whisky and salmon and needs to do more to get local food used in meals bought with public money.”
Green MSPs said they were now looking at opportunities in the forthcoming Procurement Reform Bill to increase the incentives for buying Scottish produce.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Prison Service confirmed that prisons across the country were being supplied by McLays Ltd, based in Glasgow.
Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Fergusson said: “If the prison service can source its meat within Scotland, there is absolutely no reason why the local authorities should not be able to do the same for their schools.
“Figures would suggest that Stirling council are leading the way in this regard and other local authorities would do well to follow suit.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While procurement decisions are entirely a matter for local authorities, the Scottish Government provides guidance setting out nutritional requirements and quality standards for school meals, and we expect both to be observed.”