Red meat, dairy and climate change: See where we've been in the media

Published 24 August 2021

Livestock
Vice President Stuart Roberts_69965

iNews kicked off the month with an article reporting that farmers have hit back at Ethan Brown, the boss of the plant-based food manufacturer Beyond Meat who said a tax on meat would be beneficial in helping people reduce meat consumption. The NFU is quoted in the article reiterating that when people buy British meat they are buying sustainable, local food, produced in areas where it is difficult to grow other produce.

2021

August 

July

Henry Dimbleby's food strategy

Coverage of Henry Dimbleby's National Food Strategy kicked off the month of July, NFU President Minette Batters gave her reaction to the report alongside Justin King (formerly of Sainsbury’s) and Professor Tim Lang on BBC Radio 4. 

Minette also featured on Sky News' Breakfast show where she emphasised the importance of getting back to eating whole foods and cooking from scratch.

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts spoke to Farming Today where he also discussed the need to get balance back into our diets, net zero and support for farming through the transition period

Further NFU spokesperson quotes appeared in the Daily Express, Mail Online and Independent, suggesting the report should act as a wakeup call for people to value their food. While broadcast outlets continued to run the story throughout the month with Minette featuring on the BBC News Channel, clips of which were used throughout the evening in BBC News bulletins, and NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts on LBC News

Cereals 2021

NFU President Minette Batters and NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw ventured out to the one of the first agriculture shows of the year, Cereals 2021. At cereals Minette and Tom were interviewed by Farming Today, speaking about a variety of issues affecting farming from buying British to trade deals.

NFU meeting with Which?

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts has met with the Head of Consumer Rights and Food Policy at Which? after he and the press team wrote a private letter to the editor highlighting issues with its recently published guide to making more sustainable choices. The letter stressed that while it's good that the magazine is encouraging more sustainable choices, it was disappointing to see references to the global impact of meat production rather than focusing on how British meat is produced, especially given the British audience.

The meeting was constructive and multiple actions have been agreed to further explore opportunities to communicate the complexities of food systems to the British public.

Elsewhere...

  • ...the BBC reported that some farmers are looking towards older practices to improve the quality of the meat they produce, boost the soil health in their fields, and help mitigate climate change. The article quoted from NFU environment forum chair Richard Bramley as he discussed what practices he uses on his own farm.
  • NFU President Minette Batters was interviewed live on BBC Radio 4 World at One about farming, biodiversity and the rising trend of ‘regenerative agriculture’. (28:45)
  • NFU dairy board chair Michael Oakes was interviewed for Times Radio (1hr 36mins), where he spoke to presenter Carole Walker about farming and the environment and discussed the impact of milk substitute drinks on British farming. 

May

Animal Welfare

NFU President Minette Batters had a letter published in the Times in response to their article “Cruel Country” (Apr 30). She said that the incidents mentioned in the article are in no way reflective of the tens of thousands of farms across the country where animal welfare is the main priority.

April

Meat export increase

NFU President Minette Batters was quoted in a Sun article discussing the need to build a British brand, this came following the news that sales of British beef are soaring worldwide with the meat growing more popular in Asia. Experts say the UK’s market with the US is also about to explode after the US ended a 24-year ban on British meat products. 

Blue Peter's green badge

Following a number of members contacting the NFU about Blue Peter’s green badge, which included a pledge to go ‘meat free’, the NFU’s press team contacted the production team behind the show to express our concerns about this.

In particular, we said it was disappointing how the programme hadn’t recognised the climate-friendly production methods used by British farmers and how British meat and dairy can be a sustainable choice.

As a result of this direct contact with Blue Peter, the team committed to updating its website to reflect that buying seasonal food or local, grass-fed meat is a sustainable choice as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Blue Peter has also filmed with a young farmer on a Welsh farm recently where they will be talking about sustainable food production, animals’ diets and grassland. They are also covering food waste and soil health in future episodes.

It’s good to see the Blue Peter team take action on their website to amend the pledge and include references to the climate-friendly food produced by British farmers. The NFU will continue to engage with Blue Peter on this and other farming issues in the future.

Sustainable meat production

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts was quoted in a Daily Express article discussing sustainable and healthy meat production methods.

March

Dairy innovation

The One Show visited NFU members Mark and Zena Hinds in Derbyshire and Richard and Pam Kennerley in Congleton who are both innovating their farms shops with the installation of a milk vending machines. The piece also mentioned an NFU report on buying local during the pandemic. Watch from 23 mins 25 secs.

February

Carbon Tax

The Times published a letter from NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts outlining his thoughts on a proposed carbon tax and explaining his beliefs that British farmers produce some of the most sustainable meat and dairy products in the world.

The Telegraph also covered the issue with a quote from Stuart.

Elsewhere...

speciality food- minette batters_77774

NFU President Minette Batters wrote exclusively for Speciality Food magazine. In her article she explained how it isn’t as simple as plant-based good / animal-based bad and how British farming produces high welfare, climate-friendly food.

Dairy farmer and NFU Cymru milk board chair, Abi Reader won Farmers Weekly 2020 Farming Champion of the Year- an award sponsored by the NFU. After Covid-19 hit the supply chain, Abi worked tirelessly lobbying for the Dairy Support Scheme for affected farmers in Wales. She did this while supporting other groups including the Welsh Dairy Farm Innovations Group, the South East Wales TB Eradication Board and the Cattle Vaccination Board.

January

Oatly advert

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts was on Farming Today alongside Oatly's chief sustainability officer, Ashley Allen, to discuss the Oatly advert which claimed that dairy and meat production is more damaging to the climate than the transport sector. Listen from 5 mins 14 secs

Sustainable diets

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts and member Joe Stanley were quoted in a Sky News report, as they discussed how British farmers are leading the way in climate-friendly food, working towards net zero food production by 2040. They reiterate that people can reduce greenhouse gas footprint by eating more sustainable local produce. 

Elsewhere...

NFU environment forum chair Phil Jarvis spoke with the BBC about the importance of good quality soil in tackling climate change.

2020

November

Farmers at the forefront of climate change

bbc food 11.11.20 climate change_75672

With two in five of the world’s plants at risk of extinction according to a new report by The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, BBC Food reflects on the consequences for our food.

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts is quoted saying we’re getting more extreme events more frequently, and that’s because of climate change, and farmers are at the forefront facing into those weather events.

October

NFU complaint on BBC impartiality upheld

telegraph bbc bias_75239

National media titles reported the NFU's official impartiality complaint in response to the BBC's Meat: A Threat to Our Planet  being upheld and the programme subsequently being removed from the iPlayer. The coverage carried NFU President Minette Batters' quote that UK grass-based systems are incomparable with the intensive feedlot style systems shown on the programme.

See full list of coverage:

Impact of coronavirus on livestock and dairy sectors

For a full round-up of coverage relating to covid-19 and its impact on sectors, please take a look at our coronavirus media coverage hub. 

September

Farmers Guardian dedicated a whole issue to net zero agriculture and NFU Student and Young Farmer ambassador Harriet Bartlett was featured in its Young Farmer Focus column in which she reflects on how she feels honoured to work with farmers towards a more sustainable future, collecting information from farmers and carrying out assessments to quantify their land use and impact on biodiversity, carbon footprint, animal welfare, and antibiotic use.

Net zero agriculture: Our latest media coverage

For a full round-up of coverage relating to agriculture's net zero ambition, please take a look at our net zero media coverage hub. 

August

The Guardian reported new analysis by Greenpeace that suggests cows, pigs and other farm livestock in Europe are producing more greenhouse gases every year than all of the bloc’s cars and vans put together, when the impact of their feed is taken into account.

The NFU is quoted explaining why a focus on improving productivity is key to achieving net zero emissions, alongside maintaining and improving our storage of carbon in grassland and producing more renewable energy.

July

Meatless Farm launches new campaign

The Guardian Meatless Farm story_74381

The Guardian reported a new campaign launching today from Meatless Farm, which  targets people who have cut down on meat during lockdown. NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts is quoted emphasising British farmers' net zero agriculture goal and the importance of eating quality, nutritious red meat as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

NFU Deputy President questions Enfield Council's approach to climate crisis

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts was interviewed on talkRADIO and told Mike Graham that Britain's livestock production system is one of the most sustainable in the world and questioned why the council did not consider its sourcing. 

January

CCC report on land use

The NFU's response featured widely across the media, with NFU President Minette Batters highlighted that that British farmers are part of the solution to climate change on BBC Radio 4 Today (from 54 mins) and BBC 5Live Drive giving her reaction.

BBC Farming Today covered the report and spoke to NFU director of policy Andrew Clark, who said that reducing the amount of land used for production would be counterproductive as our grassland act as a valuable store of carbon.

The Mrs Batters' comments that emissions from UK beef are half the global average as well were also widely picked up by national newspapers.

See where the NFU was quoted in print media:

Veganuary

NFU Cymru milk board chairman Abi Reader took on George Monbiot in Channel 4's Apocalypse Cow documentary which aired on 8 January, and she featured in Financial Times as well as BBC World Service’s Business Matters programme on the impact of veganism on farming alongside NFU President Minette Batters who added that a plant-based diet “should not masquerade as the only solution to climate change”. 

NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts was quoted in The Times responding to new figures showing an 18% rise in sales of meat-alternatives. He said that people should look behind the label, and question where and how it has been produced. NFU member James Small was also interviewed on Sky News where he stressed that home-grown red meat plays a key part in a healthy, balanced diet.

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