The “Eating Better – for a fair, green, healthy future” campaign is made up of 25 organisations ranging across health, environment, social justice, animal welfare, faith and consumer sectors and will be lobbying government to push its “less is better” message.
The campaign, which is made up of organisations such as Friends of the Earth, Compassion in World Farming and the Soil Association, is also being backed by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
However the group’s use of inaccurate and out-of-date studies to back up its claims has drawn fire from the meat sector.
Nick Allen, director of levy body Eblex, said: “It’s disappointing to see a well-known celebrity chef, such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, together with a number of well-respected organisations, supporting a campaign with such an overly simplistic message.
“The campaign uses statistics from the Livestock’s Long Shadow report, which has since been discredited due to serious flaws in the methodology, as well as the WCRF study from 2007 which was found to contain a number of significant errors and omissions. Recycling this information is singularly unhelpful and does nothing to advance the debate around sustainable livestock production.
"The beef and sheep industry in the UK operates using a rain-fed pasture system which is one of the most efficient in the world. However, the industry is working hard to further reduce its environmental impact to make the most efficient use of the resources available.
"As far as the ‘eat less meat’ message is concerned, lean red meat plays a valuable role in a healthy, balanced diet. This is recognised by the Department of Health, which recommends consuming 70 grams of meat a day."
Dr Carrie Ruxton, of the Meat Advisory Panel, added: “The frequent claims made in the media that red meat causes cancer and cardiovascular disease are misleading as studies evaluating these links are either animal studies or epidemiological research conducted in the US where livestock are intensively reared and meat intakes are much higher.
“Such studies can’t be used to prove causation in people with moderate intakes of mainly grass-fed animals as is the case in the UK. It is noteworthy that several randomised controlled trials have found similar beneficial effects on cholesterol and blood pressure when low and higher red meat diets are compared – as long as the red meat is eaten as part of a healthy balanced diet.”
FoE’s Clare Oxborrow, who chairs the campaign, said: “Feeding a growing and more affluent global population healthily, fairly and sustainably simply isn’t possible unless we make significant changes. One vital, simple step for people in the UK is to eat less and better meat and a greater variety of plant-based foods.”
Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “I’ve always said we should be eating less meat, of higher quality, and the highest possible welfare standards. So I am delighted to support the Eating Better alliance, which brings together leading NGOs who have done so much important work on these topics.”