Growing the meat and milk substitute markets and cutting red meat in ready meals are key proposals in a preliminary report targeting the food supply chain’s impact on climate change.
The research, ‘‘Strategies for reducing red meat and dairy consumption in the UK’’, has been compiled by London University’s Imperial College. It is supported by WWF UK (formerly World Wildlife Fund UK) and includes input from bodies such as consulting, technology and outsourcing group Accenture, Cranfield University and English Farming and Food Partnerships. The finished report is expected to be published in early autumn. “It’s going through peer review,” said Mark Driscoll, WWF development officer - English regions. “We’re keen that it has scientific weight and adequate feedback.”
The draft report highlighted 5.7Mt of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions unaccounted for by the food and drink industry’s existing reduction work that would have to be eradicated to meet the government’s 2050 targets for reducing GHGs. It argues the gap has to be bridged by changing consumer behaviour.
Imperial said the largest portion of emissions in the food and drink supply chain comes from the farming sector and acknowledges processors are already making substantial progress on emissions reduction.
It suggested food and drink contingency plans should focus on the meat and dairy sectors, because they generate the biggest slice of GHG emissions in the food industry - 31%.
In addition to estimated savings from initiatives already underway, Imperial said slashing red meat and dairy consumption should surpass the 5.7Mt shortfall, achieving a 6.2Mt GHG emissions cut by 2050.
Food Standards Agency nutrition guidelines have shown room for reducing consumption in these areas while safeguarding recommended protein intakes, said the report’s contributors. And further findings claimed shoppers were over-consuming red meat and dairy products.
Imperial said retailers could do much to reduce portion sizes for meat and dairy products, as well as increasing ranges of meat and dairy substitutes and using merchandising tactics to promote them. “It’s about giving customers more choice to tap into their latent desires and considering products’ location in store, range visibility and price visibility,” said Charlotte-Lee Woolf, report contributor and postgraduate student at Imperial.
Driscoll added: “We’re setting up an industry stakeholder group to focus on the key barriers [to GHG emissions reduction].”