UK meat sector making good progress towards climate change goals

The UK meat sector is making good progress towards meeting its climate change targets, according to a report by WRAP.

In June 2020, WRAP launched Meat in a Net Zero world, along with 40 stakeholders across the UK meat production and supply chain, including the NPA, pledging to make the UK meat industry one of the most efficient and sustainable in the world.

Recognising that we won’t fix climate change unless we fix the food system, they committed to actions across four target areas – with the overall aim to reduce meat waste and GHG emissions along the meat supply chain and protect natural assets, such as water and forests. These actions will contribute towards existing national and global targets:

  • Courtauld Commitment 2030 – halve food waste and food system GHG emissions by 2030 and tackle water stress, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
  • NFU – net zero GHG emissions across the whole of UK agriculture by 2040.
  • UK – all GHG emissions to net zero by 2050.

WRAP’s one-year on Annual Progress Summary 2020 – 2021 for Meat in a Net Zero world highlights key progress:

Target Area One – Helping to improve productivity, protect natural assets and reduce GHG emissions when rearing animals, while maintaining world-leading animal welfare standards.

  • 60% of business supporters have set net zero or science-based GHG reduction targets across the whole supply chain, including agricultural (scope 3) emissions.
  • New farm-level metrics agreed for key meat categories (poultry, pig, beef and lamb) to help track progress against above targets – and national-level targets.
  • Retailers and processors have reported a significant and increasing amount of R&D activity being focused in priority areas, such as feed innovations.

Target Area Two – Reducing meat waste, GHG emissions and water impacts in the supply chain.

  • Meat processors reported a collective reduction in food waste of more than 20,000 tonnes – an average 30% reduction.
  • All businesses set a GHG reduction target and reported year-on-year improvements – up to 30% reduction in emissions intensity (scope 1 and 2) over the last year.
  • All processors reported having water efficiency targets and year-on-year improvements –up to 15% reduction in intensity of water use.

Target Area Three – Protecting the world’s forests by sourcing raw materials that avoids deforestation.

  • Efeca (facilitator of the Roundtable on Sustainable Soya) estimate that 32% of soya imported into the UK in 2019 was covered by a deforestation- and conversion- free certified soya standard.
  • Combined, the total proportion of soya imported into the UK in 2019 considered to be from sources at low risk of deforestation/conversion or covered by a deforestation- and conversion- free certified soya standard amounts to 62% (Efeca).

Target Area Four – Helping to halve the amount of meat thrown away in and out of home:

  • Many positive behaviours were adopted by householders during and after national lockdowns (eg pre-shop planning, freezer management, using leftovers), demonstrating that there is scope for positive change, but as restrictions lifted, self-reported food waste appears to be increasing.
  • Businesses have stepped up to help reinforce positive behaviours by strengthening adoption of best practice for on-pack labelling and guidance. For example, all retailers have now removed the term ‘Freeze on Day of Purchase’ from packaging, or are working towards this. WRAP estimates this could help reduce waste by c.15,000 tonnes/year.
  • Businesses widely supported the inaugural Food Waste Action Week.

Taking targeted action

  • Momentum for Meat in a Net Zero world is building, with the need for change widely recognized. To continue its success, the following focus areas have been identified:
  • More robust data are required for decision-making.
  • Existing technologies need to be advanced and new innovations developed. For example, further investment is needed in soya alternatives, such as insect meal, other novel proteins, domestic-grown legumes, etc.
  • Further need to tackle priority behaviours to reduce meat waste occurring at home – such as planning, freezing & defrosting and using leftovers.
  • We also need to better understand ways to tackle meat wastage when eating out of home.
  • Commitment to WRAP initiatives such as the Courtauld Commitment 2030, the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap and Guardians of Grub.

Karen Fisher, Head of Climate Action Strategy, WRAP: “Against the backdrop of the unprecedented challenges that the Covid crisis has presented, the industry has taken some important steps forward. The momentum is building, the need for change is widely recognised and this is reflected in the number of new businesses and wider organisations joining this commitment – including more representatives from the hospitality & food service sector and the feed industry, amongst others.”

Food Minister Victoria Prentis said: “I am pleased that so many organisations have joined WRAP to advance the ambitious goal of ensuring that the UK meat industry is one of the most sustainable in the world.

“Our food is amongst the very best globally, and today’s Annual Progress Summary clearly shows meaningful progress to measure and actively reduce industry’s impact on the environment, on all stages of production – from rearing animals to reducing meat waste in our homes.”

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About The Author

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.