PFLA general manager Russ Carrington told Food Manufacture that meat production would move towards more extensive systems (see box) as the industry fights through misinformation surrounding whether meat consumption is damaging the environment.
His comments followed a report from the UN that suggested moving to a plant-based diet was the key to reducing carbon emissions. Despite this advice, Carrington said it was better to eat less meat, while still maintaining a healthy meat industry in the UK.
Making human edible food
“In Britain two-thirds of our landscape grows grass – that’s what it naturally does – and the ruminant animals, cattle and sheep, are the perfect tools to turn that inedible human food into human edible food and clothing, as well through wool or leather,” he explained.
“I do see sense prevailing and those animals will become more the norm, but we will eat less of them and that’s generally fine – we eat a lot of meat in the west anyway, so let’s eat a little bit less and better.”
However, Welsh minister in charge of Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths disagreed with the UN’s suggestion of reducing meat consumption to tackle climate change.
The wrong way to reduce emissions
Speaking on The BBC’s Sunday Politics Wales, Griffiths said Welsh meat was already very sustainable and that the focus on the industry – which was unfairly targeting producers – was the wrong way to reduce emissions.
“If you really care about climate change and reducing our emissions, if you buy locally that helps not just our farmers, but obviously your own carbon emissions,” she added.
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) shared similar sentiments to both Griffiths and Carrington. Chief executive Nick Allen argued the UK made the best use of the country’s agricultural land and meat production greatly aided biodiversity and countryside management.
What is extensive farming?
Extensive farming or extensive agriculture (as opposed to intensive farming) is an agricultural production system that uses small inputs of labour, fertilisers and capital relative to the land area being farmed.