The Environment Secretary has said it is “depressing” when people simplify the issue of meat consumption saying, “livestock is bad, therefore eat less meat”.
Speaking during a session of the Environment and Climate Change Committee, George Eustice said: “If you were to listen to Lord Deben, I think the way he would put it is that we probably want people to moderate the amount of meat they eat.”
It had been previously estimated that global consumption of meat reached 385 million tonnes in 2018 – that translates to at least 1.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
George Eustice said: “The science about whether meat-eating is good or bad for the point of view of the environment is disputed. And there are legitimate arguments that say livestock is part of a healthy, environmental approach.
“I think beyond the eat well plate, which is very much from a health perspective, which recognises that meat, protein is part of a healthy diet, but it should be eaten in moderation – beyond that eat well guide we don’t have any messages to the public about meat consumption from a food production angle.”
Recent research suggested replacing a fifth of meat from cattle with alternative proteins produced from microbes such as fungi could halve deforestation and land-use linked emissions by mid-century.
Mr Eustice said the government was looking at “labelling work” to encourage people to eat meat that has got a lower environmental impact.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs added: “What we desperately need is for people to have confidence in the integrity of the label. And so, we are looking whether pasture-fed should be a particular classification, that’s got a particular meaning and requires a particular type of system.”