Wasted meat damaging our environment

Discarded meat is having a negative effect on our environment, according to research. 

A new study has shown that the UK wastes more food than every other country in Europe, with households throwing away 13lb of food weekly.

The report, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, proved that Europe as a whole wastes 22 million tonnes of food every year.

Wasted meat has the biggest impact on the environment, according to the research: “Although the highest total and avoidable waste amounts are observed for the cereals, fruit and vegetables product groups, it is wasted meat that accounts for the highest related wasted water and nitrogen sources.”

The report claims that a reduction in meat to the average consumer’s diet has the largest reduction effect on a consumer’s water footprint. This is because meat products are very resource-intensive.

“In other words, a small reduction in wasted meat already equates to a large reduction in wasted water and nitrogen resources.”

A lot of the damage to the environment comes during the early stages of farming, as explained by Christine Costello, assistant research professor at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at University of Missouri.

“While many of us are concerned about food waste, we also need to consider the resources that are wasted when we throw away edible food,” explained Costello, who is also co-author of a paper entitled ‘Meat food waste has greater negative environmental impact than vegetable waste’.

“Farm equipment used to feed and maintain livestock and plant and harvest crops use a lot of diesel fuel and other utilities from fossil fuels. When people waste meat, these fuels, as well as fertilisers are also wasted.”

In a report released at the beginning of the year by the Department for Environmental Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), it was revealed that 300,000 tonnes (t) of meat and fish was wasted in 2012. Most of this unwanted meat was due to consumers preparing too much food.

Defra claimed that per week: “Meat and fish contributed the highest cost of avoidable food and drink waste at £1.52.” This is equal to 17%.

Meanwhile, it has been observed by founder of Climates – an environmentally-conscious social media project – that red meats, like beef and lamb, have five times more climate impact than white meat such as pork and poultry.

According to Environmental Research Letters, for every one citizen in the UK, we throw away the equivalent of one tin of baked beans a day.

The report believes that zero avoidable waste is a possibility with European consumers. If followed through, it could save customers a substantial amount of money as well as for authorities that have to spend on waste collection.

Additionally, it has the potential to save large volumes of water and reactive nitrogen.

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?