A new report by The Food Foundation has criticised the UK government’s inaction on key environmental measures such as reducing meat sales.
Despite the Climate Change Committee’s warning that a 35% reduction in meat consumption will be necessary for the government to meet its net-zero target, few steps have been taken to achieve this. The foundation points out that it is not even mandatory for retailers and food service providers to disclose the percentage of their sales coming from animal versus plant-based proteins, meaning that no major businesses currently publish or have a target to reduce these figures. Businesses also made fewer commitments to sustainable and healthy diets this year in comparison to 2022.
“Government needs to signal its commitment to the healthy and sustainable diet agenda”
Furthermore, 21.5% of multibuy deals are on meat and dairy products, compared to just 4.5% on fruit and vegetables. Similarly, 9% of advertising spend is on animal products, while only 1% is on fresh produce. At major UK restaurants, 62% of main meals still contain meat.
The report also notes that meat alternatives remain more expensive — and therefore less accessible — than conventional meat. For example, plant-based chicken is on average 27% more expensive than a chicken breast.
“Business transparency has stagnated”
In response to these findings, The Food Foundation is calling for the mandatory reporting of three metrics for businesses in the retail and OOH sectors. These are the sales of HFSS (high in fat, sugar, and salt) foods, animal versus plant protein, and fruits and vegetables (all by percentage). No major food company currently reports on and has a target for all three metrics.
While some businesses are working to increase plant protein sales, they do not have corresponding targets to reduce meat sales. The report contrasts this with European businesses such as Lidl Germany and Aramark, which do disclose data on sales of animal vs. plant proteins and have targets for improvement.
Previous research has found that 59% of people would like to see the UK government subsidise alt protein products, while the country’s most recent net-zero plan (published earlier this year) has been widely condemned by environmental groups for failing to address the role of food system transformation.
“Business transparency has stagnated, with fewer businesses disclosing sales-weighted data on health and sustainability than last year,” said Anna Taylor, Executive Director at The Food Foundation. “This negative trend is not being helped by the lack of leadership from government on food, and the fact there is still no agreed way of consistently measuring and reporting the nutrient content and carbon footprint of food. Government needs to build business confidence and signal its commitment to the healthy and sustainable diet agenda by making reporting of sales weighted data mandatory.”