Net zero – NFU President tackles Guardian on diet claims

Minette Batters

Minette Batters

Former NFU President

An image of several black and white and brown and white cows facing towards the camera

Minette Batters has challenged a Guardian article that suggests a reduction in meat and dairy production is needed for sustainable land use in England.

Henry Dimbleby, who led two government-commissioned reports into the UK’s food system, has been quoted in a Guardian article, England must reduce meat intake to avoid climate breakdown, says food tsar, as saying that eating less meat and dairy is the ‘only way to meet the country’s climate and biodiversity targets’.

In a letter to the editor, Mrs Batters reiterates British farming’s commitment to achieving net zero by 2040 and explains why choosing British-produced meat and dairy is part of the solution to the global climate challenge. 

She also points out how the article fails to recognise the ways British food production differs from methods used in other parts of the world.

You can read her letter in full below.

To the editor

I have always maintained that food production and environmental protection go hand-in-hand. After all, farmers are the original custodians of the countryside and we have ambitions to do even more, by reaching net zero by 2040.

It is frustrating and inaccurate to see the ‘meat vs plant’ debate continue in your article, England must reduce meat intake to avoid climate breakdown, says food tsar with dietary changes being touted as the only way we can significantly reduce emissions and without recognition of the differences between UK production and the rest of the world.

This is plainly wrong. British livestock farming is predominantly grass-based, meaning our animals turn inedible grass into high-quality beef, lamb and dairy. This is one of the reasons why emissions from UK beef production are less than half the global average.

Our commitment to net zero shows that UK farmers are part of the solution to our climate challenge, and the public should be assured that when they buy British, they are supporting farmers committed to sustainability.

The government has recognised this in its Food Strategy and I hope to see this commitment to British embedded in legislation as we continue our journey as a nation to net zero.

Minette Batters
NFU President

We will continue to challenge misinformed claims on our members' behalf. We also work to keep the public up to date about the valuable work farmers do to protect and care for the British countryside, as well as producing climate-friendly food.

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