Foodservice Footprint Unknown-120 THE FRIDAY DIGEST: Sainsbury’s low CO2 cow hustle and responsibility deal 2.0 Out of Home News Analysis  news-email-top

THE FRIDAY DIGEST: Sainsbury’s low CO2 cow hustle and responsibility deal 2.0

This week’s topical tittle-tattle starts with a U-turn, but not perhaps the one you were expecting – because Rishi Sunak decided to neuter the government’s net-zero plans at a moment that didn’t align with Footprint’s deadlines. Suffice to say: Oh deary me. We promise to have a more detailed analysis come Monday’s Political Print column.

It is easy to have lost track of recent U-turns on policies, not to mention delays, but one of the most recent involves mandatory reporting of key health metrics. This was a central recommendation of the national food strategy, and the government committed to making this happen via the food data transparency partnership (FDTP). Until this month, that is: a couple of weeks ago Footprint reported that the plans have been shelved, marking a further retreat from policies that are perceived to add extra cost to businesses. 

The approach will now be a voluntary one. And The Grocer has this week revealed that while salt, sugar and fat content of products are likely to be included in new voluntary reporting requirements, existing targets on salt and calories could be “sidelined” if companies buy into the new reporting regime. Campaigners are not happy about the whole thing. “The move by the government to U-turn on mandatory reporting and revert to voluntary reporting on health metrics are in direct opposition to the direction of travel that the ‘Recipe for change’ campaign and public health experts urgently want to see to bend the curve on preventable obesity and diet related ill health,” said Ali Morpeth, a registered public health nutritionist.

Recipe for change involves 36 Royal Colleges, charities and health organisations that are calling on the government to introduce a new industry levy to make food healthier and raise additional revenues for investment in children’s health.New modelling evidence shows the industry-wide levy on sugar and salt used in manufactured foods or in restaurants and catering could cut average salt intake per adult by up to 0.9g per day and sugar by up to 15g per day – and prevent a lot of ill-health and save a lot of money to boot.

Finding healthy food in the UK could actually become harder as fresh produce farmers give up on losing money every year. Fruit and veg producers called out the rotten support they are getting from supermarkets: 49% say it’s likely they will go out of business in the next 12 months and the supermarkets and their buyers are to blame. Organic veg box company, Riverford, has together with 115 farmers, farm organisations, chefs and NGOs, written to the CEOs of the big six chains to demand fairer treatment for farmers. In the survey, growers accused the major chains of not paying on time, cancelling or changing orders at the last minute, and pursuing cheaper food alternatives from overseas.

This week, Tesco has also been caught red-handed sourcing chicken from Brazil despite promising not to. Mighty Earth, which found the meat on shelves, has written to the Competition and Markets Authority to ask whether the supermarket has broken the green claims code as a result. Tesco’s commitment to no longer sell Brazilian beef, chicken or pork due to high deforestation rates in the Amazon and Cerrado dates back to 2020. The supermarket is clearly greenwashing, according to the Mighty Earth UK director Gemma Hoskins. Tesco told The Times the offending poultry related to a small, branded supplier and “should not have been listed in our stores”.

From Tesco’s chicken we turn to beef at Sainsbury’s: its new 16-strong range of Taste the Difference beef cuts have a “25% lower” carbon footprint than the industry standard, making it the “largest low carbon beef range ever produced in the UK”. Prizing the context of this from the press office took some time but we are reliably informed that the standard used was 32.14kg CO2e per kg of processed beef, so we think this means the new beef has a footprint of 24.1kgCO2 per kg.

How has this been managed? Better breeding as well as “strictly monitored feed and living conditions mean that healthy calves are raised in the most efficient way possible, needing less time and energy to grow, in turn emitting fewer harmful gases”. In other words, they’re killing the cows quicker: in fact 20% sooner than the industry standard – a fact curiously absent from all the PR this week. 

Nusa Urbancic pointed out that even beef with a 25% lower carbon footprint is “still the most carbon intensive [food] we can buy”, which makes the low carbon claims being made in press releases, on packs and in stores “highly misleading”.Other experts noted that the savings had clearly taken a lot of work and it’s never easy to be the first retailer to move, but honing in on purely greenhouse gases ignores other ‘better meat’ metrics like freshwater, biodiversity, soil health, antibiotic use and animal welfare.

Worth noting too that it isn’t just the UK where low carbon beef hit the headlines this week: in the US Tyson’s government-backed ‘climate friendly’ beef is also getting some stick

NGOs are having a field day currently when it comes to labelling companies as greenwashers. And speaking of labels: the EU has provisionally agreed to ban carbon neutral claims that rely on offsetting. The story is one of the three other articles in this week’s bulletin. There are also more details of those dissolving salt targets and the struggles fruit and veg farmers are having with supermarkets.