Industry says ‘eat less meat’ report is oversimplified

Experts and industry leaders have warned that a report urging people to eat less meat to improve food security has oversimplified a complex issue.

The report, which was published by the House of Commons International Development Committee today, claimed people should reduce meat consumption to protect the world’s food supplies, and called for a switch to “more sustainable” pasture-fed systems.

However, food security expert Professor Tiffin, of the University of Reading, said that while the report was a “comprehensive and challenging” attempt to highlight the issues surrounding food security, it was “perhaps guilty of oversimplifying the issue of meat production”. He added that food security should be considered on a global, not a local scale.
“By highlighting the place of animals in ensuring global food security the report is to be applauded, but the reality is that this area is complex and not well understood at the moment. It is irrefutable that the global demand for meat will grow as populations in developing countries become richer. At a local level, it might be sensible for us to reduce meat consumption, and the reality is that price increases will probably lead us to do this voluntarily,” he said.
“However, at a global level it is much more important to consider how the inevitable increase in demand can be met and what its implications are for human health. We should not solely focus our attention on repelling the tide.”

He added that it was not necessarily true that extensive, pasture-based systems were more sustainable.

“For example, there is evidence to suggest that more intensive feeding reduces the considerable emissions of greenhouse gases caused by livestock. The role played by livestock in providing a route out of poverty for some of the poorest farmers should also not be overlooked.”

Meanwhile, the British Poultry Council (BPC) echoed Eblex’s response to the report by pointing out that meat is an important part of a balanced diet.

“The Committee’s recommendations on meat consumption are disappointing. Poultry meat is a wholesome and nutritious protein source and should be an important feature of a healthy diet,” said BPC chief executive Andrew Large.

Large added that poultry had a key role to play in meeting the demands of a growing population.

“Poultry production is an economically sustainable production with the most efficient Feed Conversion Ratio* among other livestock, low carbon and water footprints, low energy and electricity usage. Thanks to a short supply chain, the poultry industry contributes efficiently to feeding the world, in an environmentally responsible way,” he said.

Eblex pointed out that UK beef and lamb production was primarily pasture-based, and UK consumers already had a preference for grass-fed meat.