Meat bosses react to environmental attack

Trade experts have defended the meat industry after a BBC article reported that meat consumption needs to fall in order to protect the environment.

BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin said that Cambridge and Aberdeen university research suggested: “Greenhouse gases from food production will go up 80% if meat and dairy consumption continues to rise at its current rate.”

The piece, which follows a two-part BBC Horizon programme on eating meat, also complained that “research highlights that more and more people from around the world are adopting American-style diets, leading to a sizeable increase in meat and dairy consumption. If this continues, more and more forest land or fields, currently used for arable crops, will be converted for use by livestock as the world’s farmers battle to keep up with demand. Deforestation will increase carbon emissions, increased livestock production will raise methane levels and wider fertiliser use will further accelerate climate change.”

However, industry leaders have responded, saying the research does not tell the whole story. Nick Allen, Eblex sector director, said: “In terms of the natural emissions which are a by-product of rumination, while it is still an emerging area of research, there is general consensus the carbon sequestration of permanent pasture offsets these emissions to some extent. This was acknowledged in the APPG beef and lamb inquiry, published in May 2013.

“There also appears to be an assumption that, as the world population grows and demand increases, farmers will simply produce more. Farmers will increase production, but only in line with an increase in the price of the product to ensure their enterprises are sustainable and protected against potentially negative influences on the market.

“As such, any debate concerning the environmental impact of the industry and true sustainability must also include profitability to ensure a balanced dialogue is maintained.”

British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) director Stephen Rossides defended the British industry, highlighting the differences between production here and in other foreign systems: “In the UK, livestock farmers are encouraged to improve their efficiency, including through genetic improvement, since this both reduces GHG emissions and improves profitability.

“UK ruminant livestock production is largely grass-based and does not rely on imported soya for animal feed. It is also important to remember that much farmland in the UK is only suitable for livestock grazing, and that actively managed grassland is an effective carbon sink.”   

Want more stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up for our FREE email newsletter


My Account


Most read


For the third year running, a grain fed cow won the World Steak Challenge. What do you think produces the best beef?