Animal farming accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, a major contributor to biodiversity loss, freshwater use and pollution.
Occupying 70% of farmland, animal farming – depending on its severity – is associated with poor animal welfare conditions.
As animal-based foods, such as meat and milk, are considered more productive than plant-based foods, pressure is mounting in the Western world to reduce their consumption.
“Evidence shows that in the case of meat and dairy we need to do two things: reduce our consumption and improve supply chain sustainability,” Said Jonah Drovern, a researcher at the University of Surrey and an expert on the WWF’s standard diet and behavior change.
“But we are very committed to how to do it, and the role that food companies have in supporting the transition to ‘cheaper and better’ meat and milk.”
Spotlight on retail
Supermarkets play an important role in the food supply chain because they exert a ‘significant’ influence on both production and consumption.
Therefore, along with research colleagues at the University of Surrey, Nestlவின்’s Head of Sustainability and the WHF’s Food Systems Sustainability Manager, Drovern explored retailers’ perceptions of sustainable diets and their strategies and challenges for improving and improving the purchase of ‘low and best’ meat and milk. .
Without a globally accepted definition of ‘less and better’, the study authors turned to the UK Charity Eating Better Alliance, which explains that ‘less’ is an average 50% reduction in meat and milk consumption. ‘Best’, according to the Alliance, refers to meat and dairy production “Healthy ecosystems support more natural foods from sustainable sources, among well-managed farmers who provide the highest quality of animal welfare”.
Seven different supermarkets were surveyed representing the majority (73%) of the UK market share.
Finally, the study authors wanted to know if UK retailers perceive ‘cheaper and better’ meat and milk as a key component of sustainable diets. Do retailers implement or plan to implement strategies to induce lower and better meat consumption? What obstacles do they face to achieve this goal?
‘Low’ meat and milk ‘contradictory’ to retail sample
The results indicate that supermarkets share an ‘integrated understanding’ of a sustainable diet for obtaining a healthy diet, while being associated with low environmental and social impacts.
The researchers noted, however, that ‘lower and better’ meat consumption did not play a major role in their interpretation. Three retailers cite ‘low’ meat as a feature of sustainable diets compared to plant proteins, while no retailer mentions ‘best’ meat.
In terms of strategy, all retailers reported on a variety of methods designed to help consumers make the most consistent purchase decisions.
But no retailer has set demand targets for ‘low’ meat and milk. This, they said, was ‘too challenging’ and ‘contradictory’ for the retail business model. On the contrary, retailers realized the goals of increasing sales of plant-based products as a ‘more fantastic alternative’ to consider in the future.
On the distribution side of things, all retailers announced the implementation of ‘best’ meat and dairy related targets and interventions. “Six … participants announced that they are working to improve the consistency of the meat and milk they sell, with the main focus being on animal feed and farm management.” The authors noted.
What can retailers learn from this research?
Despite some improvements in the provision of ‘better’ meat and milk, the researchers concluded that considering the nature of the retail model, ‘less’ meat and milk may continue to be a challenge for forward retailers. Consumer demand, industry competitiveness, close relationships with suppliers and commercialization of meat and milk.
However, Drovern suggested that retailers could make significant progress in moving toward ‘less and better’. “One of the things I want retailers to take on is that while it’s not just about promoting and promoting plant – based products, it’s about working directly on reducing meat consumption, whether it’s about sustainability and net zero strategies or deceiving consumers.”
A multidisciplinary approach followed by Drovern was able to see even greater improvements in ‘lower and better’ meat and milk consumption.
“This is a big challenge, one sector cannot solve alone. Retailers can make a difference on their own and in collaboration with other companies, including manufacturers.” She told Footnavigator.
“But government intervention is important to address factors beyond the direct control of food companies such as actively producing meat and dairy and agricultural incentives.
“Civil society also has a key role to play in bringing about changes in consumer demand, and then food companies can adapt to it.”
Opportunity for vertical collaboration
We were told that food and beverage manufacturers could also play a key role in promoting a shift towards ‘lower and better’.
“I think there is a real opportunity for vertical collaboration between manufacturers / manufacturers and retailers to move towards ‘less and better’.. ”
For example, pea protein can create a ‘better meat converter’ because it is healthier and nitrogen fixing, which means it can play a role in restoring soil health, Drewern continued.
“For meat and dairy producers, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, soil health and animal welfare must be taken into account. It is important to look at these issues as a whole – outdoor, comprehensive systems are desirable for intensive indoor due to the unbalanced impact of animal feed on the environment.”
Source: Sustainable production and consumption
Are UK retailers well-placed to provide consumers with ‘cheaper and better’ meat and milk? ‘
Released 4 April 2021
Authors: Jonah Truvern, Jonathan Senoweth, Ian Christie, Emma Keller, Sarah Holloway.
Source: Are UK retailers well-placed to provide consumers with sustainable production and consumption of ‘low and excellent’ meat and milk? ‘Released 4 April 2021DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.spc.2021.03.037 Authors: Jonah Drovern, Jonathan Senoweth, Ian Christie, Emma Keller, Sarah Holloway.