A body representing Welsh lamb, beef and pork producers has called for a more balanced debate around the issue of diet choices in the media.
Leading broadcasters are promoting online ‘carbon calculators’ which claim to measure the impact of your diet on the planet, without making any allowance for where you source your meat.
Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef is reared in non-intensive ways and fed on natural grass. It’s a world away from systems abroad which often have a much more destructive environmental impact
Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has emphasised that consumers can make more informed choices on how to reduce their carbon footprint by being aware of how and where their food is produced, rather than cutting whole groups of food from their diet in ways which may impact their health negatively.
The red meat body pointed to evidence which suggests that vegan diets receive far more coverage in the press than their actual popularity with consumers would warrant, and research which shows that meat reared in non-intensive production systems such as those in Wales are far more sustainable options than often-cited global averages would suggest.
“We respect the fact that people make their own dietary decisions for a range of personal reasons,” said HCC’s Chief Executive Gwyn Howells, “however it’s vital that the media doesn’t distort the debate, and helps people to make informed choices.”
“According to an opinion poll commissioned for HCC earlier this year, on average the UK public now think that 16.6% of the population is vegan, following the huge coverage given to diets free of meat and dairy. However the real figure is much lower, with the Vegan Society saying that just 1.16% of UK adults don’t eat animal products.”
Mr. Howells emphasised the huge differences in meat production systems across the world, and criticised the use of global averages to describe the environmental impact of livestock by British media.
“Unfortunately, leading broadcasters have promoted online ‘carbon calculators’ which claim to measure the impact of your diet on the planet, without making any allowance for where you source your meat.
“Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef is overwhelmingly reared in non-intensive ways and fed on natural grass. It’s a world away from systems abroad which often have a much more destructive environmental impact.
“In terms of water resources, for instance, the media and campaign groups sometimes say that it takes 15,000 litres to produce a kilo of beef, whereas research into sustainable grass-based production systems say the figure can be as little as 221 litres, which is lower than many plant-based foods.”
To counter misleading coverage based on global averages, HCC is featuring the authentic voices of Welsh farmers in its marketing campaigns – many of whom are employing world-leading practices to capture carbon in their soils and reduce inputs such as fertilisers.
Gwyn Howells explained,
“Consumers should look at the reality of the situation, rather than some of the sensationalist coverage or online propaganda from groups which have an anti-meat agenda. They can be confident in enjoying sustainable and nutritious lamb and beef reared in Wales.”
Red meat and the environment was a key theme of this year’s HCC Conference, held at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd on 14 November.