Eat less meat for greater food security, British population urged
MPs’ report says eating less meat would help ease food crises in the developing world and mitigate price inflation
It could also help to mitigate the rampant food price inflation that has seen the cost of staple foods in the UK rise by close to one-third in the last five years.
The massive increase in meat consumption in rich countries in recent decades has led to spikes in the price of grain, used for animal feed, as well as leading to widespread deforestation and pressure on agricultural land, and has contributed to the obesity epidemic. By avoiding meat even for a day or two each week, people could help to ease some of these pressures.
The MPs’ warning, in a report entitled Global Food Security, came as governments from around the world prepared to converge in London for a summit on nutrition and world hunger.
The international development select committee said that the increase in meat eating was only one of many factors underlying the global food crises that have afflicted the developing world twice in the last five years, in 2008 and 2011, but going vegetarian even for just a few meals a week is something that most people could manage easily, and with positive health impacts. They called on the government to start a public health campaign to encourage people to change their behaviour.
A national campaign on reducing food waste should also be an urgent priority, according to the MPs, as well as tough targets for big retailers to cut the amount of food they throw away. Government agency Wrap already runs a Love Food Hate Waste campaign.
Sir Michael Bruce, chairman of the committee, stressed that food crises and their effects are not limited to poor countries. “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,” he said.
“UK aid to help smallholders increase food production in the developing world is of direct benefit to UK consumers as rising world food prices will reduce living standards of hard-pressed UK consumers.”
Intensive farms, favoured by some farmers as they make raising livestock cheaper by housing them in vast sheds instead of fields, also came under fire, because they require animals to be fed on grain instead of grass.
Sir Malcolm warned that the UK was “never more than a few days away from a significant food shortage” because of our reliance on imports.
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