Meat industry concerned by climate challenge

The meat industry feels under siege when it comes to the environment, with nearly three-quarters rejecting the idea that production poses a credible threat, and 75% believing the industry is being made into a scapegoat.

Despite this, however, nearly 90% claim to have made some measures to tackle their own businesses' environmental impact. The figures emerged following an MTJ survey of key decision-makers from across the sector to assess industry attitudes towards the environment.

A key suggestion from green lobbyists has been to reduce consumption to tackle the meat trade's impact on the environment. Yet 80% of respondents rejected this concept, even if prices rose to compensate for lost volume while 78% believed consumers would be unprepared to pay more for their meat. Meanwhile, three-quarters of respondents said food security was a more pressing problem than the environment. And while 74% claimed that the industry was taking green issues seriously, 72% of respondents said they did not know the carbon footprint of their business.

When it comes to responsibility for resolving the issue, the vast majority, 83%, said they would rather industry took the initiative than wait for the government to step in. However, 55% felt industry bodies and represen-tatives were not doing enough to address the issues, and 59% felt the Eblex roadmap, which sets out the route for industry to follow to cut emissions, did not go far enough.

Standard production methods are considered the best in environmental terms, with 47% of respondents backing them, and with free-range coming second at 19%.

Industry leaders said the survey showed there was confusion within the industry when it came to the environment. Nick Allen, Eblex sector director, said: "The results of the survey... suggest many people in the industry do not fully understand all the issues. Whether people believe meat production contributes to climate change or not, we have very clear goals that we need to reach on reducing greenhouse gas emissions 11% by 2020. Set against a background where 72% of businesses do not know their carbon footprint, yet 89% claim to have made environmental improvements, there is clearly a long way to go. Both the MTJ poll and our own recent research, show that industry is not comfortable with waiting for guidance from the government, but is reliant on bodies like Eblex to take the initiative."

BMPA director Stephen Rossides said the survey showed the industry takes the issues seriously, but that there were messages in there for the industry's sector groups: "It's clear the industry feels misrepresented over environmental issues and this may partly explain why a small majority feel industry organisations need to do more. Initiatives like the Eblex co-ordinated roadmap are real actions, but the results of the survey suggest we need to maintain this work, but also publicise more widely what industry organisations are doing."

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