Food Security: MPs discuss less and better meat

By : Sue Dibb
Jul 7, 2014

A Committee of MPs has warned against complacency towards UK food security and says Government must plan now for changing global demand for food and future changes in our weather patterns.

The Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee report Food Security published on 1 July addresses a number of issues relevant to Eating Better. 

In our submission to the Committee Inquiry last December, drafted in consultation with our supporting organisations and partner networks, we said:

  • The evidence for addressing consumption is compelling and food security policy needs to focus on consumption as well as production.
  • Policy progress towards sustainable diets requires government leadership and Ministerial commitment.
  • A ‘less and better’ approach to meat eating offers the potential for greater self-sufficiency in UK meat consumption.

We are pleased to note that the Committee recognises:

  • Government and farming must do more to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture to meet national GHG reduction targets, in particular to reduce emissions from lowland intensively produced beef, sheep and dairy farming systems;
  • the value of less intensively-farmed ruminant livestock on hills and uplands in the UK;
  • Government needs a Plan B for animal feed to replace UK’s heavy dependence on imported South American soy for livestock and dairy feed with alternative animal feed from within the EU.
  • the need for greater policy coherence across government departments.

We are also pleased that the Committee discussed the need to encourage consumers to eat less, better-quality meat (para 56) but disappointed it did not make specific recommendations on how to help consumers make this shift. As we’ve pointed out previously efficiencies in production, even if achievable, will not be sufficient to address the GHG impacts of meat production. The challenge of feeding nine billion does not primarily centre around increasing food production but on restructuring the way in which we use the food that we produce as Peter Stevenson of Compassion in World Farming has previously written for Eating Better. 

The EFRA Committee report gives strong support to the concept of ‘sustainable intensification’ which can be used to justify an increase in industrial livestock production particularly pigs, poultry and dairy. However, such industrial production is neither sustainable nor necessary. Using cereals as animal feed is a wasteful use of these crops and of the scarce land, water and energy used to grow them. The EFRA report rightly stresses that 'the production of protein, whether from animals or plants, must make efficient use of land and water'.  Because of its dependence on feeding human-edible grain to animals, industrial livestock production uses both water and land very inefficiently.

We note that the Committee plan a further report later this year which will focus on consumption as well as affordability and access to food and food waste. We shall be encouraging the committee to include our policy recommendations for official guidelines to provide advice on healthy sustainable eating, including less and better meat, for the public, health professionals, educators and businesses; and for such guidance to be included in procurement standards for public sector caterers.

 

The report Food Security, by the House of Commons Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee is published on the Committee’s website at www.parliament.uk/efracom.

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