Principles for Eating Meat and Dairy More Sustainably: the 'less and better' approach
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At a time when the UK Government is currently consulting on a post-Brexit food and farming strategy, we are calling on DEFRA to integrate a less and better approach to meat and dairy into its plans, and to do more to encourage and reward farmers adopting more sustainable and higher welfare animal farming methods.
Eating Better’s Executive Director, Sue Dibb, said:
“Industrial livestock production is having a devastating impact on our health, animal welfare and the health of the planet. As people are becoming more conscious about what they eat, a less and better approach to meat and dairy provides a positive way forward.
But we urgently need the Government to play its part. Brexit provides a timely opportunity to put our livestock production and consumption onto a more sustainable footing and to support and encourage farming practices that benefit animal welfare, the environment and our health."
Eating Better’s new report sets out Eating Better’s ‘less and better’ approach including a guide to assurance and labelling schemes to help people choose better meat and dairy. There is practical advice to help policy makers, food companies and the public put this approach into practice. It also details eight principles explaining how meat and dairy consumption impacts across different areas.
Eight principles for choosing less and better:
1. Choosing better for the climate means shifting the balance of our diets towards more plant-based foods; while eating less meat. Choosing meat from ‘pasture-fed’ animals can help lock carbon into the soil, but only makes sense if consuming considerably less overall.
2. Choosing better for animals means choosing meat and dairy from well managed production systems that enable natural behaviour, support good health and provide a natural diet.
3. Choosing better for nature means choosing livestock products that have a diet based around local food sources and home-grown feedstuffs, using for example European native legumes, which can help reduce our reliance on unsustainable soy.
4. Choosing better for feeding the world fairly means shifting diets away from meat and dairy overconsumption. This would ensure resources are used more efficiently and fairly.
5. Choosing better for health means shifting towards more plant-based diets which would have health benefits for the majority of the population.
6. Choosing better for responsible antibiotic use means choosing products that require minimal antibiotic use in their production. In practice, this means avoiding products produced intensively.
7. Choosing better for cutting waste means valuing meat as a precious resource, making the most of each carcass and reducing the amount of wasted edible food.
8. Choosing better for livelihoods means choosing meat and dairy from smaller scale, higher standard producers. Choosing meat and dairy with a known provenance can reconnect producers and their customers such as through farm shops, box schemes, farmers markets and independent butchers.
How to choose: Labels and certifications
Short of getting to know the particular circumstances of individual farms, and purchasing direct from producers, at farm shops and farmers markets, assurance schemes and labels are often the only way of identifying ‘better’ meat and dairy products.
Currently, there is no label that delivers neatly across all our better meat and dairy principles, although organic comes closest. In our full report we provide details of a range of ‘better’ meat and dairy labels and set out why they can help the consumer to choose better meat and dairy.