Meat is a treat

barbecued-chickenParliament’s International Development Committee, chaired by Lib Dem MP Sir Malcolm Bruce,  has been turning its attention to global food supplies. According to The Independent the committee reports that even in the UK we are never more than few days away from a significant food shortage. You can read the full report on Global Food Security here.

We all throw away far too much food – up to one third of all food produced globally – so the committee is urging the Government to develop strategies that will help us to reduce the amount of food wasted in the UK.

In addition, the committee believes we should all be encouraged to eat less meat.

Malcolm Bruce is quoted as saying:

There is no room for complacency about food security over the coming decades if UK consumers are to enjoy stable supplies and reasonable food prices.

So what can be done to reduce food waste? Suggestions, please, in the comments.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Regulation of fresh food retail pricing, so that buying more doesn’t mean buying cheaper. No more multi-buy offers, and bigger packs should be sold at the same price:weight as smaller packs. There’s nothing wrong with having special offers on the price, but consumers shouldn’t need to purchase more than they otherwise would to access a discount.

    This is only needed on fresh food, i.e. that goes off within days and weeks rather than months and years.

  • I agree with both the above comments.

    Tell Iain Duncan Smith, he of the £39 breakfasts!

    Tell Eric Pickles – how many £thousands of biscuits has he put on expenses?

  • Foodbanks are also a considerable source of waste – of food, volunteer’s time, and especially of the transport resources needed to ferry it all about.

    Make the benefits adequate, and stop stealing the safety net of vulnerable people! Benefits sanctions are a disgrace.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 4th Jun '13 - 9:18pm

    How about labelling meat correctly so that we actually know what it is that we are buying?

  • Kevin McNamara 4th Jun '13 - 9:19pm

    not for the animals, it isn’t.

  • There are several issues here:

    Firstly, ‘we’ discard and throw away too much food – this happening throughout the supply chain, from crops in the field to the domestic kitchen, with much of the waste occurring before the food reaches the checkout.

    Secondly, we have production in-efficiencies – for example meat production (in general) consumes significant amounts of food. This is an aspect to the horse meat scandal that didn’t received much attention, horse meat is a lean meat and is expensive (in feed terms) to produce, hence it would be plan daft to farm horses just for their meat, however, if we are having to slaughter a horse, it is a waste not to make use of the meat. So the cost of producing meat can be reduced by appropriate sourcing and farming practices.

    Thirdly, we have the total lack of any real grasp on the significant land requirements for food production by the majority of the population. The UK currently imports over 51% of it’s food , which would seem to indicate that to feed our current population we need to farm an area roughly double that currently being farmed in the UK. So if we really want to increase the security of our food supply, we need to be increasing the productivity of the countryside not reducing it by building new towns on it, which in turn means that we need to become more pro-active in managing our population …

  • I spent too much of my childhood defending the fact of my vegetarianism (or to be honest, the fact that I was born into a vegetarian family) to want to waste my time trying to persuade people about anything to do with diet. All I would say is that the evidence overwhelmingly shows that cutting down on the consumption of animal based products not only increases potential food security but also reduces the rate of global warming.

  • AlanPlatypus 4th Jun '13 - 11:08pm

    How about not eating meat?

  • Do read this article in which George Monbiot admits he was wrong (I’m always impressed when people do that), and presents some useful facts about why meat as part of our diet could be the right thing environmentally too – if we farmed it the right way.

    Much food waste used to be fed to pigs, thus turning it into useful food. Now most is sent to landfill. How does that make sense?

  • @David Wright – Thanks for the link.
    George Monbiot’s article presents a clear argument for what I referred to as “appropriate sourcing and farming practises”. Although he focuses on pigs, similar reasoning can be applied to the raising of other livestock. I take a minor point of issue, feeding ‘cattle’ with straw isn’t a good idea due to issues of digestion and health, however water buffalo can and do thrive on straw (a farmer, then local to me, switched a few decades back from cattle to water buffalo, discovered this) – their milk also seems to be healthier for you as well.

    Additionally with the horse meat scandal, talk of badger and deer cull’s , perhaps it is also time to review what meats we regard as ‘normal’ and fit for consumption. Just like we are having to review which fish we consume…

  • I predicted the food shortages 3 years ago, how was I able to do that? Just look at the rise in consumption, consumption doubling nearly every 10 years. We have cut down something like 70% of the Amazon forest to turn into farm land for more meat production. Meat production is out of control and has run out of space. Not only that, as number one cause of pollution in the world we are nearing the point where the pollution from meat alone is going to end us all. Meat production is not something which we can continue, wether you like eating it or not.

    I am not the only one who predicted this, people like Bill Gates are very aware of this and has been cashing in on the big companies like Monsanto who are trying to dominate the plant kingdom by modifying seeds etc. Then again, you won’t care about what you eat until you die, so keep eating whatever meat, dairy or plastic you can find.

  • While I agree completely with your point that reducing food wastage alone could massively alleviate food problems, too many of those arguing this point come off as the above comment comes off, self-righteous and pretentious. People are raised on the practice we are trying to change, it is therefore a very ingrained cultural practice that we are trying to change and if you are to have any hope of achieving that, we need to frame our arguments in the right way.

    The authors argument is great because it explains in clear but compelling English, why there is a problem with our current production and consumption of food, we need more articles and comments like this if we are to change the way people think about this issue.

    I also agree with the point wee need to look what foods we eat and how to reduce the amount of land being wasted, both in terms of farming and construction.

  • The claim that we are only ever a few days away from a serious food shortage in the UK may be misleading.

    Full Facts looked at the claim and found no evidence presented to support it. However there are issues over the vulnerability of our tightly coupled ‘just-in-time’ food chain.

    Full Fact cocludes

    “There’s a limit to what it would be sensible for the government to publish about the resilience of the food supply but what’s out there seems more reassuring than today’s announcement.
    It would be premature to conclude that there is no basis for the Committee’s claim that “the UK is never more than a few days away from a significant food shortage.” But there is no evidence for it in the Committee’s report, and the evidence we’ve seen doesn’t suggest it’s a well-established fact.”

  • @Edis Bevan
    The Full Facts statement, like the committee report is being a little economical with the truth.

    Several years back now (late 90’s?) we had storms in the English Channel that prevented both air and sea borne shipment of fresh produce, specifically vegetables, in the run up to Christmas, leaving supermarket shelves empty… Likewise when Eyjafjallajökull stopped air traffic, we started to see some cracks in the food supply chain (and the supply chains of other goods dependent on being flown in).

    So whilst it may be true that we probably haven’t been subjected to a serious food shortages since WWII, we have had serious disruption to our supply chains that have rapidly fed through to empty shelves in the shops.

    We’ve also seen that it doesn’t take much for people to ‘panic’ and clear supermarket shelves eg. after the freezing weather warning in January 2010. So there is a careful balance to be met between ensuring that the food supply chain isn’t too easily disrupted and in implementing rationing to pre-empt panic buying that makes the problem worse.

    We also shouldn’t under estimate the less visible effects weather has on food production. Whilst we (in the UK) haven’t had a total crop failure for many decades we shouldn’t be complacent, the weather patterns we have seen these last few years have not been favourable to crop growing. Todate we have been able to import to make up the short fall, but if memory serves me correctly some of our traditional suppliers also had poor yields in 2012.

  • Personally, I’m a vegetarian but I’m not keen on the meat is a treat argument because it usually translates into the well off saying other people should eat less meat. My food wastage went down when I got rid of my freezer. I used to buy stuff and forget I had it or I’d cook too much, then use the freezer as a midway point between the bin. because I never fancied the look of it when it defrosted. Also, without a freezer you eat less crap!

  • I get caught out on buying foods with short sell by dates, when I don’t get to eat it in time. Maybe labelling of the foods like they do in commercial kitchens with clearer sell by dates to curb food wastage could be a solution.

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