What we want from a National Food Strategy

NPA senior policy adviser Ed Barker sets out the NPA’s core thoughts on the National Food Strategy.

In June, Defra’s Secretary of State, then Michael Gove, commissioned Henry Dimbleby to conduct an independent review to help the government create its first National Food Strategy for 75 years.

The purpose of the review is to address the environmental and health problems caused by the UK’s food system, the security of food supply, and to maximise the benefits of agricultural technology.

The NPA has responded to the ‘call for evidence’ by providing practical ideas and examples of where the pig sector can contribute to the aims of the strategy, which explicitly demands from stakeholders how to deliver affordable, sustainable and high quality food for the nation.

In a wide ranging response, the NPA raised the following:

Better informed consumers: The NPA argued that whilst great strides have been made in labelling fresh meat in retailers, there still needed to be a significant amount of work done in the catering and food service sectors.  In addition, we felt that more practical initiatives could be delivered to ensure agriculture is taken more seriously in schools and colleges, for example recognising it as a STEM subject.

Food waste: It is hard to avoid public debates about food waste, and the NPA recognises that the industry has a great story to tell in that more than a million tonnes of co- and by-products from the food industry is fed to pigs. However, this could go further, and NPA outlined what it felt could be done to make better use of available, safe food waste.

Insect biomass: This is an interesting and novel area of research that the NPA, along with a number of industry stakeholders have been working on to try and find more sustainable approaches to feed that allow the sector to be less reliant on imported soya.

A joined up Government approach to disease prevention: Given the current and clear risks from ASF incursion to the UK pig herd and food system, the NPA urged Government to look at disease as a cross-Whitehall concern and not a singular Defra concern.

Procurement: We said no food strategy could truly work unless Government departments, themselves, only procured food to the same standard that they legally require in the UK.

The Government will respond with a White Paper six months after the review is published. It has also asked Henry Dimbleby to review progress 12 months after that.

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.