Experts at the Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI) today (July 3) published a new two-year study, which suggests that some products could become too expensive for shoppers as global temperatures rise, crops fail and resources become scarce.
Environmentalists believe that temperature rises above two degrees could have serious implications for the planet. The researchers, based at the University of Manchester, said “radical changes” in the foods available should be expected if average temperatures exceed this limit.
If they go higher, it could result in even less availability of foods such as meat and fresh vegetables with diets adjusting to include synthetic meats and a greater emphasis on processed, pre-prepared and canned foods with higher additive contents in order to prolong shelf-life.
The report, entitled ‘What’s Cooking’, further fuels the debate around how to reduce emissions from the food chain, and whether changes in consumption patterns are required sooner rather than later.
The SCI report concludes, for example, that “livestock consumption might not be here to stay” with its high environmental impact eventually pricing it out of reach for many consumers.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said the food industry was well aware of the increased risks to supply and the pressures on demand the industry is facing. Speaking to FoodManufacture.co.uk, FDF director of sustainability Andrew Kuyk said: the industry was “alive to the issues” and that foods with higher inputs could be relatively more expensive in the future. However, he said the market would decide how this impacts on consumption patterns.
“Our job is to meet legitimate consumer demand and make products as sustainably as we can,” he explained. “If some foods become more expensive, then people waste less and consume less. People’s behavior will change in relation to those price signals.”
British Retail Consortium environment adviser Bob Gordon agreed. “Meat-free diets won’t come from retailers stopping sales of meat to force people, but they might come from meat becoming too expensive. Improvements in production could help keep the prices down, of course.”
Kuyk said it would be up to the government to intervene if it felt that changes in consumption patterns needed to happen more quickly in a bid to curb emissions.
But Mark Driscoll, head of WWF-UK’s One Planet Food programme, told FoodManufacture.co.uk that playing the waiting game was “a very risky strategy. If we leave it too long then we will be so constrained by resources that it will affect the profitability of the food manufacturing sector.”
According to the SCI report, that will also leave consumers having to rely on lab-grown meats, trading personal carbon credits for the odd ‘meat treat’ and taking pills in place of vegetables.
For more on lab meat, click here.
To read more about criticism of government food policy, click here.