Editor's Comment by Ed Beddington

28 May, 2010
Playing the waiting game

So it's all change in government. And the meat industry, along with the rest of the country, waits to see what the implications of our new coalition leaders will be.

The new faces at Defra will obviously have some breathing room before any critical judgement is passed, although the new secretary of state Caroline Spelman is already attracting attention for perhaps the wrong reasons. Industry will have a long list of wishes it would like to see the new authorities adopt, but with Defra one of many departments likely to suffer cuts in these times of austerity, unless your wish involves saving some cash, don't expect to see anything too dramatic any time soon.

Meanwhile, hopefully the sweeping change in government will also lead to some sweeping changes in government advisors, if Professor Tim Lang's performance at the British Meat Processors' Association's annual conference was anything to go by. Members of the audience did not hold back from criticising Lang, who holds a number of important advisory roles to government on food matters. While one delegate, who shall remain nameless, branded him a nut, others expressed concern about the lack of balance within the advisory circles in which Lang moves.

Lang, whose presentation struck me as arrogant and somewhat shambolic, may rightly have made the point that water resources at a global level were a bigger issue than climate change. But he brushed aside questions from the audience on whether water was as big an issue for UK production, and used data that was described as "outdated" by some in the audience.

His attitude towards livestock production was made clear from his comments that meat production in lowland areas should be stopped, and he was still undecided as to whether uplands should simply be re-forested, or used for livestock grazing. So it was unclear quite where the supplies for his "high-quality, less frequent" consumption of meat would come from.

Let's hope the new authorities shake things up a little and allow more balance to be brought into some of the committees that help to shape their thinking.





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