More clarity needed on “sustainable diet”

Meat bosses have given a cautious welcome to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) calls for a more sustainable food system.

Following the publication of the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on sustainable food, WWF responded, calling on the government to talk issues around production, consumption and subsidies. It also called for a the concept of a sustainable diet to be defined by government.

Mark Driscoll, head of the One Planet food programme at WWF-UK, said: “A key step towards fixing the system is defining what a sustainable diet is and integrating sustainability criteria into healthy eating advice. There is also a need to define what we mean by ‘less but better livestock products’, and to work with farmers, retailers and consumer groups to help us move towards a more sustainable food system that is fair for all.”

Eblex, the sector body for beef and lamb, said it welcomed the WWF-UK’s support of work already being carried out by the livestock sector on environmental inputs, but it stressed a need for clarity in defining exactly what a sustainable diet is and the consumption of ‘less but better-quality meat’.
Eblex sector director Nick Allen said: “We are delighted that WWF and other organisations like Friends of the Earth (FoE) are now recognising the real value of red meat in a balanced diet and acknowledging the valuable contribution beef and sheep production makes to this country.

“We are all pushing in the same direction and working towards more sustainable production. In England we have the right climate, landscape and professionalism to produce high-quality beef and lamb to help feed our population in an efficient way, making best use of available resources.
“However, the complexities around consuming ‘less but better quality meat’ are far-reaching and we are far from clear exactly what this statement means, how this is achieved – or what it gains. Similar issues surround the concept of defining a sustainable diet. UK consumers are not actually high consumers of red meat compared to other countries in the EU and further afield. We look forward to discussing these issues further and being involved in the debate on what needs to happen next.”


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