Meat industry supply chain organisations have come together to agree a plan to halve the amount of meat wasted in the UK every year.
A total of 37 UK organisations, representing farmers, meat processors representing 80% of UK production, major retailers together and hospitality and food service companies, have signed up to Meat in a Net Zero World. The initiative, developed under Courtauld Commitment 2025 and facilitated by WRAP, ties in with wider sustainability goals, including helping the UK achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under new collective action.
Meat in a Net Zero world aims to prevent more than 150,000 tonnes of meat worth £1.5 billion from ending up as waste each year, helping to bring all GHG emissions to net zero by 2050.
WRAP estimates that each year around 380,000 tonnes of the meat intended for consumption goes uneaten, with the GHG emissions associated with this uneaten meat measuring more than 4 million tonnes CO2equivalents. Approximately £3 billion worth of meat goes to waste in the UK every year, three quarters of which is from our homes.
However, a dedicated Meat Sector Working Group convened by WRAP has identified important actions to take at all points across the supply chain.
A first step is to agree and adopt a consistent approach for measuring GHG emissions, and common metrics that can be used within each sector – beef, sheep, pigs and poultry – which will be worked out through the Meat Sector Working Group, in combination with other industry forums.
WRAP said greater collaboration will also help accelerate progress towards achieving targets set out in Courtauld 2025 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to halve per capita food waste by 2030. It will aim to ensure participating companies are held to account by publicly reporting on progress.
Meat in a Net Zero world is supported by a number of other key trade bodies, including the NFU,NPA, AHDB, the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), the British Poultry Council (BPC), the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), the National Pig Association (NPA), Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA).
Peter Maddox, director of WRAP, said: “I am delighted that despite the incredible pressure the sector is under keeping the nation fed, organisations remain committed to the ambitious sustainability goals laid out in Meat in a Net Zero world.”
NPA senior policy adviser Rebeca Veale, a member of the Working Group, said: “Cutting food waste is a collective action across different sectors and parts of the food supply chain. It is one we have an important role in as the pig sector, which is why we’re proud to be part of the commitment with other key stakeholders and are thankful to WRAP for facilitating this.
“Two of the key actions for production are the efficiency of producing livestock and reducing the environmental impact of feed – we’re pleased that we are engaged with projects which have, and will continue to, support these actions and will explore others relevant to pig production in this country as we progress.”
Anna Proffitt, BMPA policy technical manager, said “Increasing efficiency and reducing waste along the meat supply chain is of paramount importance to the sustainability of the sector.”
Leah Riley Brown, Sustainability Policy Advisor at the BRC, said, “Retailers recognise the key part they have in tackling climate change and the leverage they can use to help reduce the environmental impact of the materials and manufacturing processes in our everyday products.”
Time for action
Signatories to the Meat in a Net Zero world agree to the following: “There has never been a more critical time for action. We are facing a warming world, with more people and less land, water, energy and other resources to go around.
“As an industry we are committing to work together to ensure that we use these resources efficiently and minimise our impact on the environment, whilst safeguarding the health & welfare of our animals and the livelihoods of our producers.
“Never has it been more important that we produce food in a sustainable manner, including reducing food waste from farm to fork. By working collectively, we aim to make the UK meat industry a world-leading example of efficient and sustainable meat production and supply.”
The five priority areas are:
- Primary production – the majority of GHG emissions occur while rearing livestock and poultry with pressure on water, feed, fuel and land utilisation. Farms are important sinks for carbon in soil and vegetation, and are increasingly investing in renewable energy generation. A key action is for companies to commit to the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya to source soya in ways that protect against deforestation and care for valuable native vegetation.
- Processors – committing to the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap to reduce food waste. Businesses will also work to improve their energy efficiency and reduce water stress.
- Retail – meat waste will be tackled through a range of actions from packaging innovations such as skin packs and modified atmosphere packaging, to improvements in forecasting and stock control systems, and greater redistribution.
- The home – businesses are expected to support campaigns that raise awareness of household food waste, and address how products are packaged and sold to reduce food waste. Key will be widescale adoption of best practice labelling and storage guidance on poultry, pork, beef and lamb products, as well as extending product life, optimising pack size and encouraging freezing and the use of leftovers.
- Hospitality and food service sector – businesses will work with WRAP to identify why meat items are wasted and develop solutions, with support from the Guardians of Grub campaign.