Meat industry hits back at ‘misleading’ reports

The UK meat industry has defended itself after two separate studies claimed that livestock production and meat consumption must be reduced to tackle climate change.

The research also suggested that the British public was eating less meat, and was responsive to the idea of cutting its meat intake further.

In a YouGov survey, commissioned by Eating Better and Friends of the Earth, about one in three people (35%) said they were willing to consider eating less meat, with one in five (20%) saying they had already cut back on the amount of meat they ate over the last year.

The findings are part of a new Eating Better report, ‘Let’s talk about meat: changing dietary behaviour for the 21st century’, which seeks to cause a shift towards more plant-based diets. It also stated that “despite strong evidence of the benefits for health and climate change, as well as public willingness to eat less meat, efforts are unsupported by governments and most food companies”.

However, Mike Whittemore, head of trade marketing for Eblex, criticised the Eating Better report. He said: “Any effort to reduce the impact that food production has on the environment should be applauded. However, it does take as a starting point the fact that reducing meat consumption in the UK will help the nation’s health and improve global environmental performance – and these are misleading assertions at best.

“In the UK, our rain fed-pasture system means we have one of the most efficient and sustainable livestock production systems in the world. A simplistic suggestion that cutting meat consumption in the UK will make an impact on the world’s environmental issues just doesn’t hold water and, what’s more, it will not improve the efficiency of livestock production in this country and could have a detrimental effect on the landscape.”

Meanwhile, international affairs think-tank Chatham House commissioned a multi-country survey from Ipsos Mori which it said revealed a large knowledge gap when it came to the effects of livestock production on global warming.

The survey sought opinions on the links between meat/dairy and climate change, and Chatham House said the results demonstrated “a clear awareness gap”.

It explained: “Recognition of the livestock sector’s role in contributing to climate change was markedly lower than for all other sectors surveyed. Globally, people were more than twice as likely to identify transport as a major contributor to climate change.”

The organisation has called for this “lack of awareness” to be addressed, and has also urged a shift away from meat and dairy diets.

Nick Allen, sector director for Eblex, responded: “We have produced three roadmaps looking at emissions, which suggested practical measures producers can take on-farm to reduce their environmental footprint. We are also funding a range of research projects, including investigation of dietary ingredients to reduce methane emissions from the rumen of beef cattle, and a suite of projects aimed at improving the health of animals – which will improve welfare and performance alongside reducing the lifetime greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

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