Report recommending adults eat must 7g of beef a day branded ‘overly simplistic’

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has hit out at a report recommending adults cut their daily meat consumption to the equivalent of less than a cocktail sausage to meet climate change targets.

Responding to the publication of the EAT Lancet Commission report, NFU vice president Stuart Roberts said: “It is vitally important that a wide-ranging, global report like this is looked at through a local lens.

“There are significant differences in farming methods and consumption patterns across the globe and it is important we recognise that the British livestock industry is one of the most efficient and sustainable in the world.

“For example, 65% of UK farmland is highly suitable for grass production over other crops, so the UK is well placed to produce food from sustainable livestock grazing systems. Also, grassland is a very good store of carbon, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.”

7g of meat a day

The report, published today (January 17) is urging massive changes to people’s diets all over the world in order to achieve “food transformation” and reduce carbon emissions by 2050.

Entitled ‘Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT – Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems’, the three-year study is a joint initiative of the EAT Forum and The Lancet medical journal.

The report astonishingly suggests that an individual’s daily beef and lamb consumption combined should amount to just 7g per day – less than a quarter of an ounce or just one bite of a sausage.

The report also suggests that pork consumption should be cut back to the same amount.

When it comes to poultry, it suggests an intake of just 29g a day – around a sixth of a chicken breast.

“Scientific communities agree that red meat plays a vital role in a healthy, balanced diet as a rich source of essential nutrients, minerals, amino acids and protein.

It is overly simplistic to target one food group for a significant reduction in consumption and it ignores its medically accepted role as a key part of a healthy, balanced diet.

“It is clear that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and British farmers are continuing to take action.

“A combination of policies and practises will be needed to enable farmers to meet their ambitions but we must not forget the impact of a changing climate on food production – we only have to look back to the drought last year to see the effect it can have.

“With a new Agriculture Bill being introduced, the UK now has an opportunity to become more productive and efficient and I hope to see this incentivised through targeted government support.

“The NFU will continue to engage with government and industry to emphasise the important role farmers play in producing food for the nation and managing our cherished countryside.”

Counting beans

Under the report’s guidelines, consumption of milk and milk derivatives combined should also be limited to 250ml per day – at the moment Irish people drink almost 340ml of milk per day, not including derivatives.

It “recommends” that the Irish also limit our calorie intake from potatoes to just 39 calories per day, and just 78 calories from all vegetables combined.

To make up for the obvious lack of calories in this “health reference diet” the report recommends you eat 125g (almost 18 times the amount for beef and lamb) of dry beans, lentils, peas, soy foods, peanuts and tree nuts.

The report also suggests a number of extreme systemic measures to bring this about, including:

  • Rationing on a population scale;
  • Applying taxes and charges; and
  • Disinvestment campaigns.

The authors of the report state that: “Sustainable food production for about 10 billion people should use no additional land, safeguard existing biodiversity, reduce consumptive water use and manage water responsibly, substantially reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, produce zero carbon dioxide emissions, and cause no further increase in methane and nitrous oxide emissions.”

The report also aims to reduce food waste with these dietary recommendations. However, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, about twice as much fruit and veg is wasted as meat or dairy products.