Thursday, 23 January 2020
Dr Jonathan Foot, Head of Environment at AHDB, said:
“We support moves to reduce waste and look to improve efficiency and productivity and continue to invest in these areas. What is vital in the discussion about land use is that we make best use of the available natural resources we have in Britain to produce food for a balanced diet.
“Livestock sectors in the UK play a significant role in maintaining habitats for wildlife, managing permanent pasture as an effective carbon sink and turning grass, that we can’t eat, into protein, that we can, with very few additional inputs.
“While we are already at the forefront of reducing carbon emissions for beef and dairy, we believe that the thinking on this needs to go beyond carbon or we may end up regretting choices in years to come when it is too late.
“At AHDB, and in the wider agriculture sector, we are focused on ensuring the optimum outcome for the environment as a whole. This means we need to balance measures that reduce air and diffuse pollution, protect soils, enhance biodiversity, water quality and availability and reduce climate change impacts. Focusing on a single issue can result in perverse outcomes, and may reduce the UK’s food security or result in the export of our food carbon emissions to other countries.
“Reducing meat and dairy intake by 20 per cent, as suggested, means diets need to be supplemented with other proteins. Plant-based alternatives are not always sustainable when they are looked in the round for the environment. This is particularly true when water and biodiversity losses are fully quantified and managed. More research is needed in this area.
“Where land is to be taken out of cultivation and converted into woodland, the farmers need to be compensated, provided with a just transition that may include new opportunities/training or an enhanced retirement package to enable this change.
“The UK’s population will continue to require a healthy balanced diet, in which red meat and dairy play an important role. Further research is required on how diets will be supplemented in future and what the long-term effects on health will be if the UK’s population are discouraged from eating red meat and consuming dairy products for climate change reasons.”
Key line in the report says:
Reduce food waste and consumption of the most carbon-intensive foods – reduce the 13.6 million tonnes of food waste produced annually by 20% and the consumption of beef, lamb and dairy by at least 20% per person, well within current healthy eating guidelines.