Foodservice Footprint hour2 The Friday Digest: The reality of the food industry resilience group Out of Home News Analysis  news-story-top news-email-top

The Friday Digest: The reality of the food industry resilience group

“Food industry bosses and the government have agreed to hold a series of talks to discuss measures to tackle the climate crisis,” reported The Grocer earlier this month. Big names from grocery, foodservice and farming will sit on the new ‘resilience group’. 

This won’t be about sustainability and setting net-zero targets,” said the new group’s boss, Booths MD Nigel Murray. “That sort of work is going on elsewhere but the resilience group will be about adaptation.”

Is this really where we are? Trying to adapt to climate to climate change with a group coordinated by a government that (according to all polls) has only a few weeks of life left? And I won’t even start on the setting (let alone delivery) of net-zero targets.

The fact our future rests with such a hastily pulled together, reactive ‘band’ – which has a remit to “assess, manage and communicate risk in the mid to long-term” – makes me really (really) sad. My gut and head both say: this is the PR stunt to end all PR stunts.

Murray told The Grocer last week that he gets a “real sense that the collaborative intent is building across the industry”. It’s not too late, but it’s far too early for such back-slapping. The pain seen throughout the supply chain currently is very much in the short-term – in other words now (see last week’s Digest). 

“[…] we shouldn’t be surprised that the UK is again in denial about threats to the food system”, wrote Tim Lang, emeritus professor at City, University of London’s Centre for Food Policy. Indeed, think of all the reports, research and evidence (in spades) showing the climate-crisis was inevitable, with our food system brutally exposed. And also the detailed, nuanced and (occasionally) entertaining articles that I and others have delivered over the years (and the commissioning editors who have given us the space and resources to do so). Has our work been pointless? The millions of words, carefully researched and crafted, ignored? 

The food broadcaster and journalist Tim Hayward once referenced the American writer Kurt Vonnegut as saying: “Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element of your style.” I keep this on my desk and read it regularly before writing. But not regularly enough, it seems.

Rant over. Or maybe just starting. Because next on the list of topical items this week is a rather brilliant interview with Minette Battersin the FT. Batters, if you recall, recently stood down as the (much-loved) president of the NFU. She wants to see food “taken seriously”. Mance’s underlying message is for her and the farming community to take the science of climate change seriously. 

HM: What if the government decided to follow the science and cut livestock numbers?
MB: That is a completely morally bankrupt route. We’ve got to feed 70 million people. What are you going to feed them on? 
HM: I’d recommend my beetroot flatbread.

Mance admits he is “depressed at the assumption that food production has to mean the current level of livestock production”. He isn’t alone.

This is one of too few articles that note how agricultural emissions have remained at the same level for many years. Which brings me to a new AHDB pilot that will “alleviate” pressure on farmers with respect to their farm carbon footprints, reports Farmers Guardian. The £2.5m pilot will baseline up to 170 farms on carbon and wider environmental impacts, and help “change the story of British agriculture” with more accurate environmental reporting for beef, lamb, pork, dairy, cereal, oilseed and cereals. 

More details on that are in the first of our other three stories this week, which also include a new paper(ish) bottle for Baileys and yet more carbon labels being applied to menus (this time at Wembley Stadium for the weekend’s Champions League football final).