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Farmers back calls to eat less meat

A coalition of farmers and farming groups has called on the government to implement the recommendations of Henry Dimbleby’s food strategy, including the contentious target to reduce meat consumption.

In a letter to environment secretary George Eustice, the group that includes livestock and arable farmer and chief executive of the Soil Association Helen Browning, and chief executive of LEAF Caroline Drummond, wrote that there are recommendations in the report “that might make less comfortable reading for us, but which nevertheless deserve our firm backing”. These include Dimbleby’s conclusion that we need to eat 30% less meat by 2032 to meet the UK’s health, climate and nature commitments.

“As anyone who has looked seriously at the numbers knows – even those among us who champion reintroducing sheep and cattle into rotations – the reality is that people in developed countries do need to eat less meat overall, while ensuring that the meat we do eat comes from high welfare systems that support biodiversity, which the UK is well placed to achieve,” the letter stated.

It continued: “The switch from industrially produced animal products, often destined for ultra-processed foods and relying on imported proteins that can drive deforestation and land use change, to regenerative systems where animals play their time-honoured role in building soil fertility and sustaining nature must happen swiftly.” 

Other signatories include Sue Pritchard, livestock farmer and chief executive of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, and Alastair Leake, director of policy at The Game & Wildlife Trust.

The group also supported recommendations that schools and hospitals should serve less but better meat, and more and better fresh produce; and that the biggest businesses should show leadership by reporting what they sell, and how it is produced.

The government is due to respond to Dimbleby’s report in the form of a white paper within the next six months.