New meat alliance targets waste reduction

Retailers, foodservice businesses and meat processors will work together to halve the amount of meat that goes to waste every year in the UK as part of a new industry collaboration.

The Meat in a Net Zero world initiative will be facilitated by WRAP and aims to prevent more than 150,000 tonnes of meat, worth £1.5 billion, from ending up as waste each year.

Alongside commitments to reduce operational waste, signatories will help deliver productivity improvements, GHG emissions reductions and protect natural assets such as soil and water during livestock and poultry rearing. They have also committed to sourcing soya for use in feed which is cultivated in ways that protects against deforestation.

Reducing meat consumption, however, is not part of the industry vision despite being identified by the Committee on Climate Change as a key agricultural policy through which the UK can achieve its target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A WRAP spokesperson said the organisation “supports the calls to eat less meat and more sustainably produced meat, when we do”. However, they added: “While the majority of the UK still eats meat, our focus will be to ensure that this meat is produced as sustainably as possible, and that as little as possible goes to waste.”

The collaboration is supported by trade bodies including the National Farmers Union, British Retail Consortium and Sustainable Restaurant Association and involves 38 of the UK’s largest businesses involved in the production and sale of meat. They include all the major grocery retailers together with meat processors representing 80% of UK production.

The foodservice sector is the least well represented with only Nando’s and Castell Howell signing up to the commitments. WRAP said engagement with the hospitality and food service sector had been disrupted by the impact of Covid-19.

It is estimated that each year around 380,000 tonnes of the meat intended for consumption goes uneaten, with the GHG emissions associated with this uneaten meat measuring more than 4m tonnes CO2 equivalents. Much of this meat is discarded in the home, but WRAP has also identified actions to be taken to reduce waste in primary production, processing, retail and foodservice.

“It is key that the focus is on every link in the supply chain from production, processing and sale, through to the customer – whether they are eating in or outside of the home,” said WRAP director Peter Maddox. “I’m confident that Meat in a Net Zero world will have a significant impact towards achieving our national and global targets. And believe this has the potential to become a blueprint that other nations will emulate."

WRAP said Meat in a Net Zero world would help deliver against a number of industry initiatives including the NFU’s Net Zero vision, the European Roundtable for Beef Sustainability/UK Cattle Sustainability Platform and the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya. Greater collaboration would also help accelerate progress towards achieving targets set out in Courtauld 2025 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to halve per capita food waste by 2030.

WRAP said it would ensure participating companies are held to account by publicly reporting on progress.

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