Fury of British farmers as public sector caterers vow to cut meat served in schools, hospitals, universities and care homes by 20 per cent to improve diets and help environment
- British farmers are furious at public sector caterers vowing to cut red meat servings in schools, hospitals, and care homes by 20 per cent
- NFU board member Richard Findlay described move as ‘frankly ridiculous’
- He called #20percentless a ‘misguided project’ that is ‘wholly inaccurate’
- The aim is to cut greenhouse gases linked to livestock and boost public health
- Hitting the target would remove nearly 20million lb of meat every year in the UK
Richard Findlay, Livestock Board Chairman of the National Farmers Union
British farmers have reacted with fury at public sector caterers’ move to cut meat servings in schools, universities, care homes, and hospitals by 20 per cent.
Public sector caterers have vowed to hit the target as part of a pledge which also aims to boost public health by lowering consumption of animal products.
The meals being reduced in canteens and kitchens across the UK are eaten by a quarter of the population.
Together with animal charity Humane Society International/UK, it claims a 20 per cent cut could save over 200,000 metric tonnes of carbon emissions.
It follows recommendations by the UK’s official climate change advisers, as well as warnings from the World Health Organisation of the risks of cancer from high red meat consumption.
However, British farmers have slammed the proposals as many fear the move is likely to hurt demand for red meat and their profits.
Richard Findlay, Livestock Board Chairman of the National Farmers Union, called the #20percentless initiative ‘wholly inaccurate’ and ‘frankly ridiculous’ because the UK industry has a smaller carbon footprint than those of other countries.
He claimed that people would simply import more produce from other countries, while meat consumption is vital for a ‘healthy, balanced diet’.
Speaking to MailOnline, Mr Findlay said: ‘We have got to look at the bigger picture here. The UK red meat industry is one of the most sustainable in the world.
‘Our carbon footprint from red meat is two and a half times lower than that of other countries. We have a temperate climate ideal for growing grass… That’s how our carbon footprint is up to 60 per cent lower than elsewhere.
Farmers’ livelihoods will be adversely affected by the sweeping changes, causing many to slam the pledge (pictured, Chloe Malcolm tends to her flock in Glenshero, April 9, 2020)
Richard Findlay of the NFU called the #20percentless initiative ‘wholly inaccurate’ and ‘frankly ridiculous’ (pictured, cows at South Acre Farm near York, April 9, 2020)
‘If public sector caterers wanted to do their bit for the environment, instead of cutting the amount of red meat served, they should be supporting British farms.
‘What people don’t understand is that switching to non-red meat products – like avocados for instance – is likely to have a greater environmental impact.
‘They will be importing products from countries which have a greater carbon footprint. Think of South America, where they cut down rainforests for food… I think that has the potential to cause huge future problems.
‘If public sector caterers vow to reduce the amount of red meat served, that will affect demand for red meat and ultimately our profitability.
‘We have a robust plan which has been scrutinised by academics to go carbon neutral by 2040. Misguided projects like these to cut red meat aren’t going to solve these problems. A lot of the thinking around this is wholly inaccurate.’
Mr Findlay added: ‘Most people who are up to speed with this know that some red meat is good for maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. They don’t over-eat.
‘But there are many people who do not eat red meat who do over-eat. To assume that cutting red meat provisions will solve that problem is frankly ridiculous.’
Public Sector Catering claims around 45,000 cows or 16million chickens would be saved, and could have the same effect as removing 400,000 cars from the road each year (stock)
Public Sector Catering claims the move would cut the estimated 45million kg of meat served within the sector every year by nearly 10million kg.
This is equivalent to around 45,000 cows or 16million chickens, and could have the same effect as removing 400,000 cars from the road each year.
The #20percentless meat vow was launched in trade magazine Public Sector Catering, and has already obtained the backing of several organisations.
Andy Jones, chairman of the PSC100 group of caterers and suppliers, said: ‘The carbon emissions savings and the potential benefit to people’s health can play a part in tackling climate change and shortening NHS queues.’
Stephen Forster, chairman of the Local Authority Caterers Association, said: ‘The school food industry is leading the way on meat reduction. Schools across the country have meat-free days and are increasingly introducing plant-based options.’
The Committee on Climate Change called for rapid and major shifts to farming practices, agro-forestry, and consumer behaviour to decarbonise the UK’s land sector in January this year (left, CCC chairman Lord Deben, right CCC chief executive Chris Stark)
David Foad, editor-in-chief of the publication, said: ‘It represents a bold move because it is not being mandated. It would have been much easier to sit back and wait until they were either prompted or forced into action like this by Government.’
However, the head of the National Association of Care Catering, Sue Cawthray, said older people tend to be reluctant to change.
‘I would say our biggest challenge to meeting the 20 per cent target is the mindset of many of those currently in care homes,’ she said. ‘The majority would have been brought up on a staple diet of meat and veg and will be resistant to change.’
Matt White, chairman of the University Caterers Organisation, said: ‘We have a very short window of opportunity to make changes in the way we all eat or we will have done irreparable damage to our planet.’
Philip Mansbridge, director of the campaign group ProVeg UK, said: ‘Never has the public sector made a commitment of this magnitude.’
MailOnline has approached Defra for comment.
The #20percentless meat vow was launched in trade magazine Public Sector Catering, and has already obtained the backing of several organisations (stock)
The Committee on Climate Change, the UK Government’s official climate adviser, called for rapid and major shifts to farming practices, agro-forestry, and consumer behaviour to decarbonise the UK’s land sector in January this year.
Under the CCC’s recommendations, a fifth of all agricultural land needs to be used to suck carbon from the atmosphere by planting trees, restoring peatlands and soils, and growing bioenergy crops with carbon capture and storage.
They also urged a cut in consumption of carbon-intensive food like red meat and dairy by 20 per cent per person, and a 20 per cent cut in waste by 2050.
‘Delivering emissions reduction should not be at the expense of increasing food imports that risk “carbon leakage”‘, the report said.
CCC chairman Lord Deben called the CCC’s report one of ‘the most important’ produced by the committee, adding: ‘These are major changes and cannot be delivered in the normal course of business’.
According to Climate Home News, Chris Stark, chief executive of the CCC, said: ‘It is time to end these adversarial discussions between climate and farmers’.
Implementation measures could cost Britain an extra £1.4billion per year but could yield profits of £80billion, according to the CCC.
The committee suggested creating a climate levy on fossil-fuel emitting industries.
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