Meat industry grows green credentials

The meat industry is taking environmental concerns more seriously than ever before. 

According to Meat Trades Journal’s Annual Green Survey, 100% of respondents said they were taking steps to reduce their environmental impact, up from 74% when the survey was last compiled in 2011.

Of those surveyed, 48% said that environmental credentials were “very important” to their business.

The most popular measure to reduce environmental impact among those surveyed was to cut energy consumption (34%) while 24% of respondents stepped up their recycling programmes.

Nick Allen, Eblex sector director, said the industry had been working hard to reduce environmental impact. “The beef and lamb sector takes environmental responsibility and sustainability very seriously as this survey shows and, for some years, has been working on reducing emissions,” he said. “It is a fact that greenhouse gases (GHGs) are produced as a by-product of the rumen, so a range of work has been undertaken, not just to look at reducing this through, for instance, alternative feed additives, but also highlighting the positives that grazing livestock bring to the environment to mitigate those emissions, to some extent, in the same way that other industries do.”

Sue Rabbich, environment and building research coordinator at Bpex, said it made sense for businesses to cut their environmental impact and that the pig industry had already made significant progress on this. “Improving efficiency lowers the cost of production and, at the same time, lowers environmental impact so it is a win-win situation for the industry and the planet,” she said. “Agriculture is responsible for 7% of GHG emissions, according to Defra, and the pig industry in particular has cut its emissions overall by the equivalent of 800,000 tonnes of CO2 and is well ahead of target.”

Despite this progress, some areas of the meat industry continue to overlook its impact on the environment, with 66% saying it did not pose a threat to the environment, while 62% believed the industry was being victimised when it came to environment issues.

Allen said: “It remains a sad fact, though, that the livestock industry is an easy target for detractors and those pushing a single issue agenda. The debate needs to be more balanced to look at the positives as well as the negatives. What was fantastic to see in the last month is WWF coming out and acknowledging what we have been saying for some years: that the UK is a very sustainable place to produce beef and lamb.”

The survey also revealed the production method felt to be least damaging to the environment was free-range (41%), followed closely by standard (34%). One-fifth of respondents felt that the organic method was the least damaging to the environment.

When it came to consumption, 66% were concerned that more people would eat less meat on environmental grounds, down from 70% in 2011, while 52% believed consumers would pay higher prices for meat that was produced more sustainably, an increase from 44% in the previous survey. Just under three-quarters (72%) believed that lower meat consumption would not reduce environmental impact.

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