Food industry fights WWF lamb pollution claims

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

The World Wildlife Fund has claimed lamb cawl has a high carbon footprint
The World Wildlife Fund has claimed lamb cawl has a high carbon footprint
The sheep meat industry has slammed the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) over a report that claims the traditional Welsh dish of lamb cawl is the most polluting of several classic British meals.

The report, Food in a Warming World​, includes findings from a study in which WWF investigated four meals; Chicken Tikka Masala, Fish and Chips, Ploughman’s lunch and ‘lamb cawl/stew’ and the resulting carbon footprint associated with their production.

According to the report, the production of lamb causes a significantly higher release of greenhouse gases, such as methane, compared to the production of other ingredients, leading to WWF labelling the meal the most damaging.

It claimed that production of lamb as an ingredient in cawl produced the equivalent level of greenhouse gas emissions as boiling a kettle 258 times or driving a car for 31 miles.


The report has drawn the ire of the sheep meat industry.

National Sheep Association (NSA) chief executive Phil Stocker said: “NSA totally disputes these claims. We consider WWF is risking its credibility by trying to assess complex interactions through single lens and simplistic ways.

“This report confuses naturally occurring carbon cycles with industrial greenhouse gas emissions and ignores the role of pastures and soils and even wool as stable carbon stores. 

“WWF’s criticism of lamb cawl ignores the highly nutritious and balanced nature of this dish and the fact that it is in line with the advice given by many nutritionists to eat less but higher-quality grass-fed meat and to incorporate this with vegetables.”

Stocker added that WWF hadn’t taken all factors into account when compiling this study.

‘Highly valued’

“Comparing meal options by (incomplete) carbon footprinting alone ignores all the other aspects that surround the production of any food and we know that sheep farming delivers a wide array of environmental and social outcomes that are highly valued by society, particularly in upland areas where extensive lamb production is key to maintaining the environment and local communities.”

The report was also slammed by National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Cymru.

Hedd Pugh, NFU Cymru rural affairs board chairman, said: “We are astonished at the nature of this report that draws comparisons between lamb production and the action of turning a kettle on. The authors have focused solely on greenhouse gas emissions rather than taking a broader view and assessing the overall contribution of our lamb production systems.


“The report does not acknowledge the many benefits to biodiversity of grazed livestock, nor does it note the possible benefits of the carbon stored in our grasslands, hedges and farm woodlands. There are also a variety of cultural and social benefits that have not been taken into account, seemingly because the facts don’t fit the agenda of this report.”

He added that farmers “take their environmental responsibilities extremely seriously”.

“This report shows a total disregard and ignorance for the good work that is taking place on farms across Wales to address the issues that are impacting our environment.”

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