4. Meat free....just for a week
Yet another campaign was launched in March, urging us to go ‘meat free’ for a week, in the interests of the planet and our own health and wellbeing. There still remains much for our industry to do in defending the role of its products within a reasoned debate about the nutritional benefits of meat and the environmental impact of meat production.
'Meat Free Week' took place from the 23rd to 29th March, and was part of a new global campaign, originally developed in Australia, “to get you thinking about how much meat you eat, and the impact eating too much has on your health, animals and the environment”.
Supported by ‘passionate meat lover’ Jamie Oliver
The campaign received strong support from an array of high profile celebs and campaigners, such as Jamie Oliver and Paul McCartney, but only attracted a moderate amount of media coverage.
During 2014, we saw a number of the NGOs and campaigning groups signing up to the 'Eating better' campaign, calling on a ‘fair’ ‘green’ and ‘healthy’ approach, moving towards a world ‘eating less meat and more food that’s better for us and the planet.’
There has already been much talk about a new approach to meat eating, known either as ‘flexitarianism’ and 'reducetarianism' - and doubtless there’ll be a spate of more ‘-isms’ to follow. Not forgetting all the other campaigns for more ‘meatless days’ and, more famously, ‘Meat Free Mondays’.
Although the ‘eat less meat’ message is far less strident than an ‘eat no meat’ call to action, this campaigning will continue to present a major challenge to the livestock and meat industries.
The meat industry must continue its efforts to put more rigour and context to what is often presented as an oversimplified message that eating less meat is good for both the environment and public health. The industry sponsored Meat Advisory Panel continues to do useful work in this area.
The meat industry must continue to highlight the valuable nutritional role which moderate meat consumption can play within a healthy lifestyle.
Many dietary research studies, highlighted by the media in recent months, have been presented as proving beyond all doubt that eating meat is detrimental to health. Had these been subjected to more rigorous challenge, it could be demonstrated that much of the data used was of limited or poor quality and failed to pay due regard to other lifestyle factors, such as lack of exercise, smoking and high levels of alcohol consumption.
We must also seek clarification on exactly what is meant by ‘Eating Better’, as regards the type of meat concerned. For most environmental campaigners, ‘Eating Better’ simply translates into eating meat produced from livestock raised in more extensive or organic production systems. It is quite reasonable to point out that these systems, while they usually demand lower resource inputs, are, in the majority of cases, less efficient and, therefore, have a more adverse impact on the overall environment per unit of production.
The industry also needs to communicate all the significant work that already been done to reduce the environmental impact of conventional livestock production and planned targets for the future.
Backlash for poultry
In most academic discussion about the sustainability of meat production, beef and lamb have invariably been presented as the ‘villains’ and poultry as the ‘hero’ with the lowest environmental impact. Recent research by the World Wildlife Fund in Germany, discussed in The Grocer, suggested that it was in fact the increasingly high levels of poultry consumption that was the main culprit.
The debate is set to run….and run.