WMC: Meat needs to tackle image issues

The red meat industry needs to distance itself from the issue of deforestation if it wants to improve its image, a UN advisor warned.

Henning Steinfeld, main coordinator of the UN FAO’s Livestock, Environment and Development Initiative, said there were good signs the industry was now starting to acknowledge the challenge on the environment and was willing to tackle it.

However, when it came to image, there was still some way to go, particularly on issues such as deforestation. “If the industry is interested in improving its image, it should clearly remove itself from deforestation and particularly illegal deforestation – not just when it comes to pasture production, but also when it comes to things like feed production.”

He said technology was also a key way for the industry to tackle some of the issues facing it, but said more work was needed in this area. “Methane emissions in ruminants could be tackled by some sort of technological innovation, if only enough research were being done. We need to channel more resources into research.”

He said there were also simple wins to be had – for instance simply covering liquid waste in slurry pits would reduce emissions. “We should make covering them, and recovering energy from them, an industry standard.”

Steinfeld’s vision of the future for beef production, however, is one of a niche, premium product. In a Q&A session, he said beef was likely to be the “caviar of the meat chain”. However, that view was disputed by Chris Brown, Asda’s head of ethical and sustainable sourcing, who said beef would remain a core product.

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