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21/07/2020 – News / Agriculture / Meat / Waste / Emissions / UK

Meat in a ‘Net-Zero’ world – UK’s ambition to cut meat waste and emissions

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38 of the UK’s largest organisations involved in the production and sale of meat have announced their ambition to halve the amount of meat that goes to waste each year in the country, and to help the UK achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under new collective action.

All major grocery retailers, together with meat processors representing 80 per cent of UK production, plus hospitality and food service companies, have signed up to Meat in a Net Zero world; developed under Courtauld Commitment 2025 and facilitated by not-for-profit organisation WRAP. 


Meat in a Net Zero world is supported by key trade bodies including the National Farmers Union (NFU), Agriculture and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB), the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), the British Poultry Council (BPC), the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), the National Pig Association (NPA), Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA). The organisations have pledged to help improve productivity, tackle deforestation, cut emissions and reduce the estimated £3 billion worth of meat wasted in the UK every year.


Reducing waste across the supply chain 


There has never been a more critical time for action in our food system, and the current Covid-19 situation further illustrates this, according to Peter Maddox, Director of WRAP. “I am delighted that despite the incredible pressure the sector is under keeping the nation fed, organisations remain committed to the ambitious sustainability goals laid out in Meat in a Net Zero world. And that WRAP could help industry develop and launch such a bold strategy,” he remarked. 


“It is key that the focus is on every link in the supply chain – from production, processing and sale, through to the customer – whether they are eating in or outside of the home,” he continued. “I’m confident that Meat in a Net Zero world will have a significant impact towards achieving our national and global targets, and believe this has the potential to become a blueprint that other nations will emulate.” 


Preventing 150,000 tonnes of wasted meat


WRAP estimates that each year around 380,000 tonnes of the meat intended for consumption goes uneaten, with the GHG emissions associated with this uneaten meat measuring more than four million tonnes CO2 equivalents (CO2e). Much of this meat is discarded in the home, but there are important actions to take at all points across the supply chain. A dedicated Meat Sector Working Group was convened by WRAP under Courtauld 2025 that brought together key stakeholders to identify the areas of biggest impact, and opportunities to overcome barriers and avoid just moving problems along the supply chain. 


Meat in a Net Zero world aims to prevent more than 150,000 tonnes of meat – worth £1.5 billion – from ending up as waste each year, and make an important contribution to the UK’s target to bring all GHG emissions to net zero by 2050. An important first step is to agree and adopt a consistent approach for measuring GHG emissions, and common metrics that can be used within each sector – beef, sheep, pigs and poultry – which will be worked out through the Meat Sector Working Group, in combination with other industry forums. 


Meat in a Net Zero world will help deliver against a number of industry initiatives including the National Farmers Union (NFU)’s Net Zero vision, the European Roundtable for Beef Sustainability/UK Cattle Sustainability Platform and the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya. Greater collaboration will also help accelerate progress towards achieving targets set out in Courtauld 2025 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to halve per capita food waste by 2030. 


WRAP will ensure participating companies are held to account by publicly reporting on progress. 


Reducing meat industry’s collective carbon footprint


“This collaboration will go a long way to supporting the NFU’s vision of net zero agriculture by 2040 and British livestock farmers are ready to play their part,” commented NFU livestock board chairman Richard Findlay. “When it comes to primary production, having a shared goal and strategy will help make sure all livestock farmers are moving in the right direction. 


“Beyond the farm gate, it is a great opportunity to make improvements throughout the meat supply chain to reduce our collective carbon footprint, and it is important that every part of the supply chain is considered alongside the opportunities to reduce waste at home.”


Boosting efficiency, driving down waste


“Increasing efficiency and reducing waste along the meat supply chain is of paramount importance to the sustainability of the sector,” stressed Anna Proffitt, Policy Technical Manager at the BMPA (British Meat Processors Association). “We fully support WRAP in bringing the meat supply chain together to undertake such important work, and are pleased that many of our members are signatories and active participants of Meat in a Net Zero world. We look forward to working closely with WRAP and members in driving the common objectives forwards.”


Leah Riley Brown, Sustainability Policy Advisor at the BRC (British Retail Consortium), added that the members of her association understand their responsibility to help drive down waste and emissions in the meat sector. “Retailers recognise the key part they have in tackling climate change and the leverage they can use to help reduce the environmental impact of the materials and manufacturing processes in our everyday products,” she noted. “Addressing food waste, particularly from meat production, is crucial in reducing emissions throughout the supply chain. From farmer to factories, we know it’s forward thinking ambitions that can help influence climate action when it comes to protecting the planet. Above all, it’s crucial that in a world where retail touches so many, we make a real positive difference.”


Five priority areas of action


The five priority areas of focus for the ‘Meat in a Net Zero world’ initiative are:


• Primary production - The majority of GHG emissions occur while rearing livestock and poultry, with pressure on water, feed, fuel and land utilisation. Farms are important sinks for carbon in soil and vegetation, and are increasingly investing in renewable energy generation. A key action is for companies to commit to the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya to source soya in ways that protect against deforestation and care for valuable native vegetation. Other actions assist the NFU’s Net Zero vision, and the UK Cattle Sustainability Platform as well as encouraging a common approach to measuring emissions and supporting knowledge exchange to help producers on the ground implement effective changes.


• Processors – Food processors are invited to commit to the strategy of Target-Measure-Act, aligned with the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap to reduce food waste. Businesses will also work to improve their energy efficiency and reduce water stress. 


• Retail – Meat waste will be tackled through a range of actions – from packaging innovations such as skin packs and modified atmosphere packaging, to improvements in forecasting and stock control systems, and greater redistribution.


• The home – the home will be a significant focus, with more than 200,000 tonnes of meat that could have been eaten (worth over £2 billion), ending up as waste each year. Businesses are expected to support campaigns that raise awareness of household food waste, and address how products are packaged and sold to reduce food waste. Key will be the wide-scale adoption of best practice labelling and storage guidance on poultry, pork, beef and lamb products, as well as extending product life, optimising pack size and encouraging freezing and the use of leftovers.


• Hospitality and food service sector – Businesses in this segment will work with WRAP to identify why meat items are wasted and develop solutions, with support from the Guardians of Grub campaign.


For more details on the ‘Meat in a Net Zero world’, including a full list of the businesses and organisations involved in the initiative, visit:

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