Challenging misinformation

AHDB’s Media & PR team, with the support of internal and industry stakeholders, works to challenge misinformation in the press, social media and advertising. As well as encouraging balanced reporting through sharing facts about British agriculture and the challenges of sustainable food production. Outlined below are some of the claims we've challenged and how we work with the media.

AHDB receives and reviews are large number of requests through its adcheck@ahdb.org.uk service, including adverts and website content from Quorn, Oatly, Flora B+tter, Carbon Savy, Climate Hero, Animal Equality, and Viva's 'Killer Muller'. After consideration and sometimes contact with the brands, we are unaware of any ASA regulation breaches.

February 2024

AHDB responded to incorrect claims made by in an article in The Grocer by campaign group Feedback Global that the Let’s Eat Balanced campaign was focused on promoting the increased consumption of meat and dairy and that the nutritional argument for red meat consumption "flies directly in the face of science".

We pointed out that the campaign is designed to highlight the nutritional, health, and sustainability benefits of British red meat and dairy, as part of a well-balanced, healthy diet.

We also highlighted that Let’s Eat Balanced is aligned with the UK government’s dietary guidelines, outlined in the Eatwell Guide.

As part of this we were able to correct Feeback Global’s claim that the UK eats too much red meat by pointing out that the National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows on average people eat well below the recommended daily amount.

We also made clear that nutritionists widely accept lean red meat provides essential nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins.

Read our response in full.

January 2024

AHDB pushed back after TV presenter Chris Packham made some accusations about our new Let’s Eat Balanced campaign - labelling it as "dangerous propaganda".

In response, we highlighted our dedication to being evidence based and the failure by many to recognise the value of livestock in producing plant-based foods sustainability.

We also made a formal complaint to the BBC, as we feel it is important to raise the question about whether Mr Packham should be able to make such claims when regularly working for a flagship broadcaster that prides itself on its impartiality.

The BBC responded to our concerns in February

"The BBC of course recognises the possibility that external non-BBC public activity of someone who presents BBC programmes could potentially be perceived as compromising the BBC’s impartiality. We therefore have guidelines in place to ensure that the external interests and views of presenters do not affect the BBC’s integrity or overlap with the work they do on the BBC. Each case obviously has to be judged on its merits and we carefully monitor our content. Nevertheless, we have shared your concerns with the relevant BBC staff and your complaint has been included on our complaints report and shared with senior management."

Read our response in full.

December 2023

AHDB made a complaint to Ofcom about Channel 4’s 'Big British Beef Battle' for failing to observe due impartiality and due accuracy, as well as fairness, under its fairness rule 7.9.

For anyone who has seen the programme, it is very difficult not to argue that it was misleading to British consumers and included a number of factual inaccuracies.

It demonstrated a key issue for AHDB, that the narrative around livestock agriculture and its impact on the environment needs addressing, and that is why we have raised our concerns with Ofcom.

Read our complaint in full and our blog on the issue.

October 2023

AHDB's Lead Nutritionist Kate Arthur responds to a Harvard University study which links red meat consumption to increased risk of type 2 diabetes. 

One study alone cannot conclusively attribute health issues to meat consumption. Therefore, further research is needed, especially when the evidence stems from an observational study – such that causation (association) does not equal an effect.

‘Rest is Money’ podcast describes agriculture as a “degenerative system” where “meat is the problem”.  AHDB wrote to the presenters to highlight the extent of regenerative farming practices carried out by British farmers and how these are benefitting nature and climate action. Along with how global emissions data does reflect the wider impact of different farming systems.

What is lost in the figures you quoted about the emissions impact of the global food system, is the wider, overall environmental impact different food production systems can have. For example, beef produced in well managed grass-based systems, common in the UK can be and are often more beneficial for the wider environment than crops grown abroad on deforested land using high inputs of chemicals. It isn’t as simple as meat is the problem, so eat less of it.

July 2023

AHDB publicly responds to University of Oxford study on climate impact of high meat diets.

AHDB is disappointed to see, once again, a study conveying simplistic conclusions to a very complex topic. Foods fulfil different roles within our diets and therefore cannot be fairly compared by weight, calorie or even nutrient contribution. Limited intake of animal-based foods has also shown to increase nutritional inadequacy, an area often overlooked by these kinds of studies.

After contacting the BBC to raise a lack of balance in its reporting, AHDB’s response was included in its online article Eating less meat like taking 8m cars off the road. AHDB experts went on to put forward a review of the study to author Professor Scarborough who was responsive and considerate of the feedback.

June 2023

The British Nutrition Foundation releases research on Ultra Processed Foods (many cereal based, dairy and meat products are classed as ultra processed), AHDB’s Lead Nutritionist responds to highlight that,

... not all UPF’s are unhealthy, and demonising all processed foods could adversely impact intake of affordable sources of nutrients.

Read Kate’s article on tip's to a healthy balanced diet.

May 2023

A Bristol Post article covering an interview with Bear Grylls who claims he is 'embarrassed' that he used to promote veganism, makes the claim “methane released from cows is worst for the environment than all forms of transport, including planes, cars and boats”. AHDB contacted the paper to highlight the error, but the article was supplied by a third-party author.

March 2023

AHDB formally requests the retraction of the Global Burden of Disease study 2019. It follows the lack of transparency from The Lancet to demonstrate whether the influential study went through due process to ensure its legitimacy. Concerns were first raised in 2022.

An article is published raising awareness of methane inhibiting feed additives for cattle. The articles quote the global livestock figure of 14.5% instead of UK specific cattle emissions which are 5%, or 7% for all livestock. AHDB contacted the journalists to highlight the point to which amendments were made in The Times.

AHDB responds to a social media post by environmentalist Ben Goldsmith who outlines why he thinks “sheep have got to go”.

It’s time to talk about sheep. The unavoidable truth is that sheep are the principal obstacle standing in the way of meaningful nature recovery in Britain’s national parks and other agriculturally marginal landscapes. There is no getting around it.

January 2023

The Economist recycled its 2021 article ‘Treating beef like coal would make a big dent in greenhouse gas emissions’, in response AHDB contacted the publication to challenge three claims; "forgoing steaks may be one of the most efficient ways to reduce your carbon footprint" - scientific evidence does not support this, changing the way we travel and source our energy has a much greater impact on reducing our carbon footprint. " .... agriculture generated 24% of GHG. According to the World Resources Institute, a research group, cars, trains, ships and planes produce a total of 16%" - comparing emissions in this way is extremely misleading as they are not like for like. Finally, the article fails to highlight to readers that coal production has no environmental benefit, whilst extensive beef production such as the type we have in the UK, provides substantial environmental benefits to the landscape, supporting biodiversity, conservation of native species and more. The Economist did not respond.

Country Living claimed plant-based sausages are 10 times better for the planet than meat ones, AHDB contacted them for the evidence behind this claim in which they did not respond.

December 2022

AHDB contacted Compassion In World Farming to highlight a misleading statement in a recent press release. AHDB outlined the issues around direct comparisons of livestock emissions and transport emissions, as supported by the FAO. Despite a response, the CIWF did not amend its wording and the situation falls outside the ASA and IPSO jurisdiction.

October 2022

BBC Radio 4 programme All Consuming covered plant-based meats, presenting an array of opinions towards the trend for meat-free alternatives. AHDB raised its concerns with the programme over lack of impartiality and challenge to a contributors comment "intensive livestock farming is inhumane and bad for the environment". The programme editor was fully responsive and cooperative to AHDB's comments and agreed the contributors comment should be removed, however, they explained that in a programme about plant-based products, it was not necessary to also explore the views of those involved in livestock farming.

September 2022

AHDB's Divisional Director of Engagement Will Jackson spoke on BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester to outline the impact of dairy protests by vegan activist group Animal Rebellion.  

August 2022

AHDB responded to the University of Oxford’s study ‘Estimating the environmental impacts of 57,000 food products’.

July 2022

AHDB made a complaint to the ASA over apparent lack of evidence to support claims on the reduced environmental impact of Bird's Eye plant-based meat products, the ASA concluded the claims could be substantiated.

AHDB wrote to The Lancet to raise concerns over the data used within its 2019 Global Burden of Disease study, an annual analysis of global health risks commonly used to shape government health policy. Academics have raised their concerns with the data, to which The Lancet has failed take action in response.

We are aware a group of highly respected health and nutrition academics asked to understand why the study showed a 36-fold increase in global deaths attributed to eating red meat, compared to the previous set of data released in 2017… we would like to ask you to share with us the method used to make these calculations and the data which underpins it. …Given that the authors of the study have acknowledged its shortcomings and have committed to publishing an updated version, I am surprised and concerned that The Lancet still has the old misleading study published on its website. - Tim Rycroft, AHDB CEO

May 2022

During Vegetarian Week, The Vegetarian Society UK provided free assets on its website which AHDB felt were misleading as meat production is not the leading cause of climate change, and climate change is not the leading cause of species decline for any of the animals mentioned. However, it was advised by the ASA that the material fell outside its jurisdiction.

AHDB made a complaint to the ASA over misleading claims made in Vegan Friendly's 'Hell of a steak' advert on water usage and overstating the impact going vegan has on reducing personal environmental impact. The ASA concluded that the advert fell outside its jurisdiction as it wasn't paid-for advertising, but did contact Vegan friendly to advise. 

February 2022

AHDB made a complaint to the ASA against Viva’s ‘Take away the meat’ advert for misleading viewers on UK slaughter practices, causing harm and offence, and promoting violence or crime. The advert received over 400 complaints in all; however the ASA felt it did not breach any of its codes and that viewers would understand the controversial ad was from a vegan pressure group promoting a vegan diet.

Following Oxford County Council's proposal to make all public catering plant-based, AHDB responded with an open letter to highlight the environmental impact of British livestock farming and its role within a healthy diet. 

Head of Environment Dr Jonathan Foot spoke of BBC Radio 4's PM programme (no longer online) about how British livestock farming is becoming more sustainable.

AHDB responded to a new study from the CEO of Impossible Foods which claims eliminating livestock agriculture would reduce global emissions by 68%. Coverage in The Mail Online and inews.

January 2022

AHDB contacted the BBC about its article 'The people moving from high to low carbon careers' in which global figures about the carbon footprint of the global dairy industry and claims about the impact of a vegan diet were made. Changes were made by the BBC to bring UK data and context to the carbon emissions of dairy farming, as well as the evidence around the real impact of going vegan.

November 2021

Head of Environment Dr Jonathan Foot spoke at COP26, highlighting the absence of reliable and comparable data within carbon reduction reporting. As well as the need across all industries and sectors for standardised reporting to be able to measure any progress towards Net Zero targets.

Featuring AHDB’s strategic farmer David Barton, AHDB worked with Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped team on its COP26 special to ensure accuracy and provide further information.

AHDB contacted the BBC to highlight that greenhouse gas emissions cited in its latest climate article were global and not UK based, the article was amended. 

October 2021

AHDB made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority regarding two Meatless Farm adverts. The adverts did not make approved health claims as required under ASA codes and, following a review, the ASA agreed and asked Meatless Farm to remove all uses of the adverts.

September 2021

In response to an article in The Times, AHDB, Dairy UK, and the NFU wrote an open letter to outline the inaccuracies in the article on the use of antibiotics in UK livestock, as well as highlighting the sustainability credentials of the UK dairy industry.

AHDB wrote to the Daily Express following the article ‘Would you put these milks in your tea?’, to highlight that British milk is among the most sustainable in the world.

August 2021

Following the release of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, AHDB lined up Professor Liam Sinclair from Harper Adams University to speak on Farming Today about his research on how feed additives can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cattle.

AHDB challenged a number of claims within The Independent's ‘4 ways going vegan can help the planet, highlighting inaccuracies in wording and comparisons. As a result, The Independent amended wording to reflect the scientific evidence accurately.

July 2021

After the BBC reported on meat production shortages and quoted The Vegan Society, which made claims about meat and livestock reduction, AHDB emailed the BBC to ask the relevance of the contribution. AHDB was invited to put forward a statement and any additional information to bring balance and context.

AHDB responded to the National Food Strategy.

June 2021

Head of Environment Dr Jonathan Foot spoke at the Westminster Forum to outline how the UK’s agriculture sector can help deliver the changes required to land use (as set out by the UKCCC) and reach the Government’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

April 2021

Blue Peter retracted its ‘go meat free’ pledge as part of its ‘climate heroes’ campaign, following an open letter from AHDB, HCC and QMS calling out its flawed science and lack of balance, and the BBC’s failure in its role to educate and be impartial.

February 2021

AHDB contacted Quorn following the launch of its social media campaign which featured videos from well-known footballers. In the videos, the claim “livestock emit more carbon than transport” was made, which is incorrect. Quorn agreed to stop using the videos and corrected claims on its website.

January 2021

AHDB challenged two claims made on Oatly’s website: what we eat has the biggest impact on the planet, and livestock emit more carbon than transport. After correspondence with Oatly, both claims were changed to reflect the facts, that scientific evidence shows other lifestyle factors have a much greater impact on the planet than diet, and like-for-like comparison shows livestock do not emit more carbon than transport. Following 109 complaints, the ASA ruled these adverts were misleading. 

A formal complaint was made by AHDB to the Advertising Standards Authority against a Surge Activism campaign, claiming that going vegan is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on earth. As scientific evidence shows, other lifestyle factors have a much greater impact on the planet than diet; the advert is no longer to be used.

Further information

If you see something you’d like our team to investigate, please email it to adcheck@ahdb.org.uk with as much information on when and where you came across it.

If you’d like to learn more about AHDB’s work to challenge misinformation, you can read AHDB’s Head of Media and PR, Phil Maiden’s blog.

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