Green scene news analysis

Chucked chicken, meat cuts and Indonesia in flames.....

Finger-licking faux pas

Reading the KFC website it appears that the Colonel has got this food waste issue licked. Products are withdrawn from sale after 60 to 90 minutes, leaving about three tonnes of chicken to deal with per year in each of its 850 stores. But fear not: “At KFC, we donate our unsold chicken to local charities through our Food Donation Programme. This enables us to help local charities provide meals to those in need within the communities where our restaurants are situated. It also ensures that as little of our chicken as possible ends up as food waste.”

Problem solved, right? Wrong. As exposed in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s BBC1 series “War on Waste”, this scheme is only a pilot in six outlets – that’s under 1%. KFC’s head of environment, Janet Cox, said there’s a target to roll it out to half the stores by the end of 2016. She also committed to update the website accordingly.

Since the BBC programme there is more information at KFC.co.uk, with “70 restaurants” redistributing chicken by the end of this year and 100% by 2020. But the first statement visitors still see is the one above. Lessons not quite learned, it seems. And the real poke in the eye for KFC is that Cox handled it all magnificently and the scheme is one that could have garnered plenty of positive coverage.

Three cheers for Chatham

Congratulations to researchers at think-tank Chatham House and the Glasgow University Media Group who have managed to write 76 pages on sustainable diets without one mention of insects. Seriously, “Changing Climate, Changing Diets: Pathways to Lower Meat Consumption” is an excellent appraisal of where we are: consumers’ understanding of the relationship between meat consumption and climate change is low (relative to that for comparable sources of emissions), while “governments are the only actors with the necessary resources and capacities to redirect diets at scale towards more sustainable, plant-based sources of protein”.

Extensive polls and in-depth focus groups led the research team to conclude that “soft” interventions to nudge behaviour will be well-received, but perhaps not effective enough. So if the carrot doesn’t work, do policymakers need to pick up the stick to encourage the public to eat more, er, carrots? A carbon tax, or the reduction of subsidies for livestock farming, will both push the price of meat up – this might have the powerful farming lobbies up in arms, but while consumers won’t embrace the concept whole-heartedly, it wouldn’t take long for them to come round, said author Laura Wellesley.

Politicians have long been reluctant to interfere in lifestyle choices for fear of public backlash, but these are exaggerated, she said. “Even unpopular interventions to make meat more expensive, for example through a carbon tax, would face diminishing resistance as [people] come to understand the rationale behind intervention.”

Palm oil pain

Indonesia is on fire, or at least its forests and peatlands are, as land is cleared to grow palm oil – the lucrative crop that the fast-moving consumer goods industry so heavily relies upon. George Monbiot recently described it as the “greatest environmental disaster of the 21st century (so far)”. But how could this happen? Isn’t there a global supply chain assurance scheme to ensure that the palm oil sourced by the food industry is sustainable?

Global Forest Watch data shows that only 105 of 3,356 palm oil concessions with fire alerts have been certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). But the scheme is coming under intense pressure to up its game.

Last month it announced a new addendum to its criteria, covering the claims of “no deforestation, no peat planting and strengthened human rights commitments” as part of the Palm Oil Next scheme. This is unlikely to be enough to appease the initiative’s critics, who are growing in number. A study by the Environmental Investigation Agency and Grassroots found that the auditing system supposed to protect the environment, growers and the buyers is “dodgy”.

Industry action on palm oil procurement is diverse, with some moving fast and others more sluggishly. With the RSPO in the news for all the wrong reasons, the risk is that firms will stand still and wait. And all the while Indonesia continues to burn.

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