IDM report urges UK to ‘eat less meat’ and ‘reduce waste’

UK consumers should be encouraged to eat less meat, while retailers and food producers should be penalised for wasting food, a report from the International Development Committee (IDM) has outlined today.

In order to make the global food supply chain more sustainable, action has to be taken, according to IDM’s Global Food Security report. Chair of the Committee Sir Malcolm Bruce noted that the UK is “never more than a few days away from a significant food shortage” and added that consumers should be encouraged to eat less meat over time.

Today MPs will also be urging the government to increase its efforts to seriously reduce the amount of food thrown away, which is estimated to be nearly a third of what is produced globally. Bruce added: “There is no room for complacency about food security over the coming decades if UK consumers are to enjoy stable supplies and reasonable food prices.”

The report recommended that the government introduce stricter food waste targets for processors and retailers, with sanctions for companies that did not meet those targets.

Rising meat consumption

Increased demand from “emerging economies” of late has seen a rise in average meat consumption per person. According to the report, meat consumption in the UK stood at 85.8kg per person in 2007, while global meat production is expected to double between now and 2050. “The consequence of increasing demand for meat is the use of crops to feed livestock rather than humans,” it said.

Professor Tim Wheeler, a deputy chief scientific advisor on the report, claimed the case for reducing meat consumption in the West from its “astronomic levels” was overwhelming. “It’s a public health gain if you reduce it,” he added.

However, the report also said that it was “neither feasible” nor “desirable” to urge the Western world to stop consuming meat. “Meat production based on pasture-fed systems – for example, pasturefed cattle – as opposed to the mass production of grain-fed livestock, is markedly less problematic,” it said.

Red meat important to diet

In response, red meat levy body Eblex said that research had shown red meat is an important part of a healthy diet.

“As far as the ‘eat less meat’ message is concerned, meat has a valuable role to play as part of a healthy balanced diet. This is recognised by the Department of Health which recommends consumption of 70g of meat a day. Lean red meat makes a valuable contribution to key nutrients in the diet,” said Eblex sector director Nick Allen.

Allen also pointed out that most of the beef and lamb produced in the UK is primarily pasture-fed.

“Sixty-five per cent of UK farmland is only suitable for growing grass and our rain-fed pasture system means we have one of the most efficient production systems in the world. Eblex continues to work with ruminant producers, through our knowledge transfer programme, to ensure they make the most of this,” he explained.

“In addition, our research tells us that UK consumers prefer the flavour of grass-fed beef. We continue to work with the industry to ensure these products are available.”