Green View

At the recent Outlook conference, organised by Bpex and Eblex, the overall theme of the day was 'A changing climate?' And I was given just 30 minutes to explain why consumption of meat and dairy in particular needs to be reduced if we are to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2050. That was difficult enough. Here, I have just 300 words to do the same.

That the industry has started to mention the 'c' word is encouraging the questions I was posed at Outlook were thought-provoking. Many of you still feel victimised, and that is fair enough: for too long, this debate has been simplified to 'meat eater vs vegetarian', which is a distracting and unrealistic comparison. I'd pitch it as: sustainable food choices vs unsustainable ones.

But what are sustainable food choices? The government either does not know or does not want to say, as consuming less is hardly a vote-winner. But it is likely to include less meat and more plant-based foods. That is 'less' and 'more', not 0% and 100%.

The livestock industry has important environmental, social and economic roles. Yet there is no escaping the fact that our food footprint is 'up there' with transport and energy and livestock products are a hotspot. Indeed, in MTJ's survey, 27% of you feel that meat could pose a credible threat to the environment. We need to find ways of reducing that threat without penalising the industry, harming diets or otherwise causing more problems than are solved. Technology could achieve some of that through decarbonisation, better genetics, improved yields and so on.

The industry's desire to improve efficiencies will also be key it is encouraging that almost 60% of you feel Eblex's roadmap lacks ambition. I would agree. It is a start, but the greater the emissions cuts made in producing (and supplying) meat, the lower the cuts in consumption will have to be.

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