The UK poultry industry has signed up for a meat industry-wide initiative that aims to make the UK’s meat sector a “world leading example of efficient and sustainable meat production and supply.”

The meat industry around the world has come in for considerable criticism for its contribution to climate change. While the accuracy of this criticism may have been strongly questioned, and despite poultry being the lowest contributor of all meats to climate change, most businesses could probably do more to protect the environment and to operate more efficiently, and so this agreement could benefit the planet and producers alike.

This new initiative goes by the name of Meat in a Net Zero world (/sustainable meat). Its signatories, which include industry bodies including the British Poultry Council and the National Farmers’ Union, have committed to halve the amount of meat wasted each year in the UK, and to helping the country achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  In total, 38 of the of the country’s largest organizations involved in meat production and sale have signed up.

Processors representing 80% of UK meat production, all major grocery retailers, and hospitality and food service have signed up for Meat in a Net Zero world, developed under the Courtauld Commitment - a voluntary agreement aimed at improving resource efficiency and reducing waste within the UK grocery sector - and facilitated by WRAP, a not for profit organization working with governments, businesses, and citizens for sustainable resource use.

Supply chain scrutiny

The entire supply chain is coming under scrutiny to make savings from sourcing through to how consumers treat meat in the home.

Where production is concerned, the initiative is looking to help meat producers achieve productivity improvements, to work on GHG emissions and to protect natural assets during poultry and livestock rearing.

In sourcing soya, for example, signatories have agreed that they will source from suppliers that protect against deforestation and that preserve national vegetation.

Where large meat processors, retailers and hospitality and foodservice businesses, are concerned, amongst commitments will be the reduction of operational waste, GHG impacts and water impacts. Processors will commit to the strategy of Target-Measure-Act, aligned with the Food Waste Reduction Roadmaps, to look at ways of increasing energy efficiency and reducing water stress.

The initiative has five priority areas: primary production, processing, retail, hospitality and the foodservice sector and in the home.

At retail level, meat waste will be tackled through a range of actions ranging from packaging innovations, such as skin packs and modified atmosphere packaging, to improvements in forecasting and stock control systems and greater redistribution.

And it is not only producers and distributors that are being asked to play their part.

Approximately 200,000 tonnes of meat are wasted by UK consumers each year. To help counter this, businesses will support campaigns that raise awareness of food waste in the home and address how products are packaged and sold. Key will be the widespread adoption of best practice labelling and storage guidance, as well as extending product life, optimizing pack sizes and encouraging freezing and use of leftovers.

Whether you believe in climate change and the meat sector’s contribution to it, or not, a growing number of consumers are concerned by food production’s impact on the planet. In developed markets purchasing decisions are not simply based on price, many more factors are taken into consideration, and   businesses that fail to align with consumer expectations, whether justified or not, can expect to lose ground. If, however, you do believe in climate change, then this latest initiative is to be welcomed and may well offer some examples to be followed.