Industry leaders have hit back at a report which said there was increasing recognition of the need to shift eating patterns towards those which are ‘plant-rich’.
The Eating Better report, co-written by 52 organisations including the Soil Association, Friends of the Earth and Linking Environment and Farming (Leaf), suggested plant-based diets with ‘small quantities of animal products’ were needed to address spiralling health care costs in the UK.
It outlined how a lowered intake of ‘intensively produced’ chicken, pork and dairy – which it said was a driving force behind global biodiversity loss through use of soya crops in feed – would create benefits for animal welfare, the environment, health, reducing waste, and farming livelihoods.
But chief executive of Dairy UK Dr Judith Bryans said the environmental and nutritional contribution of the dairy sector had been ‘wilfully misrepresented’.
“We totally reject any assertion that dairy products are not environmentally sustainable,” she said.
“Advising consumers to cut their dairy intake is wrong and unhelpful. This report too often criticises UK dairy from a global perspective and cherry picks statistics which paint a false picture of the UK industry.
“Consumers can keep dairy in their diets in the full knowledge that we take our environmental credentials very seriously as we strive to provide them with the tasty nutritious foods they know and love.”
The report encouraged consumers to choose labels with a credible welfare certification, such as organic, free range, Pasture For Life and RSPCA Assured, following suggestions livestock raised to higher welfare standards were ‘more resilient to illness’ and required ‘significantly lower amounts of antibiotics in their production’.
It also suggested people should buy ‘appropriate amounts of meat’ as well as making the most of the meat they do purchase, ‘including trying more unusual cuts of meat’.