AHDB response to Eat Lancet Commission report

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The Eat Lancet Commission has today (17 January) published a report suggesting how it thinks people should change their diets to be healthier and lower their carbon footprint. Here is our response to the report:

Will Jackson, AHDB’s Strategy Director for Beef & Lamb, said: “This report appears to be another example of well-intentioned but potentially flawed thinking on how we reduce our impact on the environment.

“Farming, in particular dairy and red meat, is part of the solution, making best use of naturally occurring assets to feed a growing population. They are an important nutritional part of a healthy, balanced diet.

“Red meat contains an efficient package of essential nutrients important for the body.  For this reason Government guidelines suggest we should have 70g of red meat a day. Average population intake in the UK is currently below this figure.  Any suggestion that we should further reduce our intake could have unintended detrimental consequences on health. 

“Despite the modelling presented by the EAT Lancet Commission, no study has specifically assessed the environmental impact of diets based solely – or largely – on plant-based protein, as opposed to a mixed diet containing animal protein. Meeting the nutritional needs of a growing UK population from plant-based proteins would likely rely much more heavily on imported food, which may be produced to lower environmental standards.

“Many of the meat alternative products we are seeing on supermarket shelves are ultra-processed, often from cheaply available materials.

“Red meat produced in the UK is a sustainable source of good quality protein. It makes best use of natural resources and requires very few additional inputs. Naturally occurring rain makes grass grow which cattle consume and convert into protein that humans can eat. It is a completely natural cycle that has been running for thousands of years in tune with, and complementary to, our natural environment”.

“In addition, grazing cattle and sheep manage permanent pasture as an effective carbon sink and make use of massive swathes of agricultural land that cannot be used for growing other foods.

“The real danger of this report is that, because it is so well backed financially and is being launched across the globe with little acknowledgment of regional differences, it will be taken at face value by people in the UK who may then put their health at risk and even worsen their personal carbon footprint”.

“Production of food should be matched to where on the planet it is most sustainable. Red meat and dairy are produced very sustainably in the UK and should continue to form part of a healthy balanced diet for our growing population.”