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UK’s big four supermarkets heavily promoting cheap meat to boost sales

Eating Better has partnered with Dutch research foundation Questionmark to examine how the UK’s big four - Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda - are using multi-buys and price reduction to boost meat sales, despite pledges to promote sustainable eating to tackle climate change and nature loss.

The research found Asda and Morrisons use multi-buys most often to promote meat, while Sainsbury’s uses price reduction (fig 1). The analysis also found that under new food laws coming into effect in October to end the promotion of HFSS (high fat, sugar and salt) products as part of the Childhood Obesity Plan, retailers will still be able to promote meat, as it’s largely exempt from the legislation: only 1% of the meat multi-buys examined in this study would be b
anned (fig 2)

Fig 1: share of multi-buys in total meat and fish promotions 

Fig 2: meat and fish multi-buys and Food Promotion Regulation 

Responding to the research findings, Eating Better, executive director, Simon Billing said: 

“This is further evidence that supermarkets are putting profit before population health and that of the planet, by bombarding us with BOGOF burgers, sausages and cheap chicken of unknown origin. And that’s despite Tesco and Sainsbury’s, in particular, having climate commitments to promote sustainable eating. 

With food prices soaring and families struggling, we need to make it easier for everyone to eat healthier and more sustainably with less of all meat and more veg. The National Food Strategy said we need a 30% drop in meat eating over the next ten years, acknowledging it won’t be easy to achieve. The Questionmark research shows that supermarkets are making it even harder for us to eat less meat.

Supermarkets need to come to terms, and quite quickly, with selling less meat and instead, promote more veg and healthy plant proteins, which are better for us, our pocket and the planet. We urge the government to get behind this and extend legislation, expected later in the year, to ban all meat promotions."

Read the report in full here and coverage in The Guardian here and Verve Times here.

Food Standards Agency extends remit to include health and sustainability

The regulator said its widened interests were an effort to stay ahead of a fast-changing food system and took into account the growing public concern about health and climate change.

FSA chair, Professor Susan Jebb said: “ is the right time for us to consider how we can contribute to wider government efforts to reshape the food system to tackle diet-related disease and climate change. Our five-year plan will enable us to work with partners and other stakeholders in the food system to play a full and active part in supporting the change that is needed.” 

Commenting Simon Billing, Eating Better said: “We need a joined-up approach to sustainable eating, so it’s welcome that the FSA is signalling that it will work across government departments to tackle the climate, nature and health crisis, which are interconnected."

Read Eating Better’s comment in full in The Independent and the National, among a number of titles which covered the story.

Made in Hackney joins Eating Better

Plant-based cookery school, Made in Hackney has joined Eating Better, bringing a wealth of experience and expertise of community-led, scratch cooking, using local and seasonal fruit and veg. As the UK’s first fully plant-based community cookery school and charity, MIH has been a trailblazer for sustainable eating, forging stronger community connections and demonstrating that eating more plants doesn’t have to be complicated. 

On becoming an Eating Better member, Sarah Bentley, founder of MIH said: 

"Made In Hackney is excited to join Eating Better, alongside the amazing organisations that are already part of the alliance. We have a lot to achieve to transition to a sustainable, equitable and compassionate food system. We won't do this by working in silos - but by working together and bringing our respective food skills, cultures and expertise to the table. Our work inspires people to grow, cook and eat more plants and it's that experience of joyful and inclusive plant-centred cooking that we bring to Eating Better.”

Welcoming MIH, Eating Better’s executive director, Simon Billing said: 

“Eating Better is working to get more plants on plates and to normalise plant-based eating.  This is what Made in Hackney has been doing, day in, day out for the last decade, long before sustainable eating had really taken root.  Our Better By Half roadmap calls for training for chefs across food service to deliver delicious, balanced and varied plant-rich dishes. We’re excited that MIH is rolling out its programme nationally to inspire more public sector caterers and community groups to discover sustainable eating through plant-based recipes.” 

Read the blog in full here.

Footprint podcast - how to forge a path to meat free and maximise sales in a growing market

With a record number of people worldwide - 629K -  signing up to Veganuary and 1500 new vegan products coming on the market, Footprint’s podcast examined how the growth in plant-based eating is likely to continue apace. Eating Better’s Simon Billing joined Quorn Foods’ Phil Thornborrow, Juliane Caillouette-Noble of the Sustainable Restaurant Association and Mike Hanson of Baxter Story to discuss how food service and food retail can build on the momentum of campaigns like Veganuary to work towards diets with less meat and more plants. 

Speaking on the podcast, Simon said: 

“Veganuary’s really captured people’s attention, but it needs to lead to sustained change in eating. All the research is showing that plant-based dishes need to be 50%, or even 75%, of the menu to really encourage that change. We need strong targets around plant-based eating and ‘less and better’ meat and we need to get the language right to entice customers to that proposition.” 

Listen in full here

Alliance updates

Government risks undermining its own deforestation goals -
WWF-UK, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace

In an open letter to environment minister, Lord Goldsmith, to coincide with International Forest Day, alliance members WWF-UK, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace and other leading NGOs outlined that new regulations being introduced under the Environment Act need to be much stronger if deforestation targets are to be met. 

Government data shows the UK’s global deforestation footprint is primarily caused by land being cleared to make way for cattle, palm oil, soy, cocoa, coffee, rubber and maize, otherwise known as “forest-risk commodities.” In the letter, the coalition urges the government to ensure all seven commodities are included in new legislation. In addition, small and medium sized companies in the supply chain must also be part of the regulations. 

Kate Norgrove, Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF, said:

“We need to see new regulations applied immediately to all products that carry high deforestation risk, from the coffee sold on our supermarket shelves to the soy feeding our livestock. And the rules must apply to every business, of any size, working in these high risk supply chains. But this can’t happen without an independent and properly-resourced regulatory body with real powers to take deforestation out of all products sold in the UK.”

Read more here on the FoE website and the letter in full here.

Reducing meat consumption could help reverse decline of 500+ endangered UK species - The Food Foundation

New research by The Food Foundation, shows that by eating five portions of fruit and vegetables per day and reducing meat intake by around a third, people around the UK could help reverse the population decline of up to 536 endangered UK species.The shift in diet could enable land currently used for livestock grazing to be freed up to plant the hedgerows and trees needed to support greater biodiversity, increasing habitable land by more than 10% for vulnerable species including red squirrels, harvest mice and house sparrows, and for pollinating insects - an area half the size of Wales. Read the report in full here

Rhetoric masks meagre nature recovery plans and Government targets much aim higher - The Wildlife Trusts

The government has published its plans for both protecting nature and its environmental targets. Responding, first, to the release of the Nature Recovery Green Paper, to protect 30% of land and seas in England by 2030, Joan Edwards, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the Wildlife Trusts, said:

“If it’s sincere in its ambition to reverse wildlife decline and restore nature, the Government must focus on improving the protections for our most important wild places for nature and set a target to restore them to good condition. It’s absolutely vital that it resists calls to lift the rules that protect our most important wild places.”

On the proposed environmental targets, intended to provide the legal foundation for nature recovery, Joan Edwards said: 

“The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan said they would hand over the environment in a better state for the next generation – but the reality is that the new target they have set is so unambitious that it could leave us with even less wildlife in 20 years’ time than we have now.”

Read the response in full here.

Sub Standard: How Red Tractor standards are failing to cut pesticides 

Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) supported by RSPB and the Pesticide Action Group (PAN) UK have published a report to support a new campaign, encouraging the public and farmers alike, to put pressure on Red Tractor's to improve standards on pesticide reduction. 

Using research from farmer focus groups and surveys, including interviews with three of the UK's largest supermarkets, Sub Standard highlights a range of improvements that the coalition says Red Tractor urgently needs to make to improve its promotion of non-chemical pesticide alternatives.

The report highlights the scheme’s lack of targets to reduce pesticide use and its failure to require its certified farmers to adopt alternative approaches, such as selecting pest and disease resistant crop varieties, crop rotations and using biopesticides.

Download the full report here and coverage here.


Pasture for Life reveals new logo for certified meat 

To mark its 11th anniversary Pasture for Life has had a brand refresh and has three new logos. One of the new logos is specifically for its certification scheme to assure customers they’re choosing meat from a certified animal. The aim is to drive greater awareness among food service and food retail of the benefits of pasture-fed meat. 

Jimmy Woodrow Pasture for Life, executive director said:

“A growing number of food businesses are getting on board and supporting the principles of PFL, including L'Escargot Bleu in Edinburgh, which has become the first certified Pasture for Life restaurant. We are a movement and solution whose time has come and I believe this new approach and all that will come with it will help us tell this story more confidently and allow us to be bolder in how we go after opportunities, all the while remaining true to our roots as a farmer-led community.” 

Commenting on PFL’s new direction, Eating Better’s Simon Billing said:  

“PFL were the first livestock farmers to join Eating Better and are valued and active members, who’ve helped us showcase what “producing better” is: protecting and enhancing nature, working to the highest environmental standards and ensuring that farmed animals live the best lives possible, with space to roam in pasture-fed systems. With their fresh new look, we’ve no doubt PFL will continue to grow from strength to strength.”

Watch PFL’s new video here

Farm Wilder features in Times article on wild venison

“With more people becoming aware of the carbon footprint of farmed meat and the challenges around intensively farmed animals, wild venison is a perfect solution for those wanting to eat less but better meat,” says the Forestry England’s Head of Environment, Andrew Stringer in a Times article about wild venison. It’s estimated around two million wild deer are roaming the UK, forcing the agency to cull in large numbers to protect precious habitats. Before trade collapsed during the pandemic, around 80% of deer culled by Forestry England was going to hospitality. Now, under a new partnership with Eating Better member, Farm Wilder, venison is being sold directly to the public.  

Quoted in The Times, Tim Martin, co-founder of Farm Wilder said: 

“If you can source sustainably reared wildlife-friendly meat like ours, then you can eat it with a clear conscience, knowing that your delicious meal is helping make our countryside healthier and bringing back our wonderful wildlife.”

Hospital patients are also being served venison, with East Lancashire Hospital Trust putting it on the menu, says NFU online. 

The Trust’s Tim Radcliffe said: 

“Working with Forestry England we can get venison sourced straight from the Forest of Bowland so it could not get any more local.”

Forestry England’s Lead Wildlife Manager Nigel Foster said: 

“Wild venison is a perfect solution for those wanting to eat less but better meat.”

Read the article in full on NFU online here.

What does a farmed salmon eat? Lots of nutritious wild fish..

Building on previous research into the farmed salmon industry, Feedback and a team of scientists from Cambridge, Lancaster and Liverpool Universities have carried out a new study, which reveals that if we ate the wild-caught fish destined for salmon farms ourselves, instead of using it to feed salmon, it would allow nearly 4 million tonnes of fish to be left in the sea. 

The study, published in PLOS Sustainability and Transformation suggests only using the byproducts (heads, bones and other trimmings) of the wild fish as feed for salmon. The report also highlights that farming salmon is an inefficient way to deliver micro-nutrients to human diets, as over half of the essential dietary minerals and fatty acids available in the wild fish, used as feed, are lost when fed to farmed salmon.

Read the report here and coverage here.

New reports and research

Delivering “less but better” meat in practice - a case study of a farm in agroecological transition

A new study, led by Stockholm University, has explored what a transition to “less and better” means on a broad range of sustainability themes on a case farm in Sweden. Researchers applied a novel mixed-methods approach to examine the farm’s climate impact and working conditions, among other aspects. The study highlights that there can’t be “better” without “less” and that scaling up agroecological livestock farming needs to involve fewer animals. The research concludes that “Less but better” can guide sustainability improvements at the farm level, but it is beyond the control of the individual farm to fully realise these improvements and that involvement by the supply chain and policymakers is also crucial.

Read the report in full here.

Untapped opportunities for climate action: an assessment of food systems in Nationally Determined Contributions

A new report by the Global Alliance for the Future of Food examines how well 14 countries around the world, including the UK, are integrating food systems transformation into NDCs, the national climate actions at the heart of the Paris Agreement. The report says that a food systems approach builds climate resilience, but food systems are rarely prioritised in climate policy. Taking a closer look at the UK’s position, the report details agriculture production, health challenges, biodiversity loss and the UK’s overseas footprint. The assessment highlights areas for improvement: more transparency about the NDC process; up-to-date research on the mitigation potential and co-benefits of transforming food systems; adopt a similar approach as Scotland’s indicative NDC. Read the full report here and the UK assessment here


Food Ethics Council 
White Paper: empty sheet or fresh hope? 
24th May, 7:00 - 8:00 pm (online) 

How should we react to the UK government's White Paper response to the National Food Strategy? This event will explore whether the response will be what’s needed and how food and agricultural companies might respond. Register here.

News Round-up

A month into the brutal and devastating war in Ukraine, we’re focusing the news round-up on how our alliance members and others are assessing the impact on food and land use.

  • 400 scientists sign a statement urging policymakers not to abandon sustainable farming practices due to the war, but instead accelerate a shift to less meat and more plant proteins to reduce the need to grow feed for animals. Potsdam Institute.
  • Globally, 10 per cent of all grain is turned into biofuel. Europe and the US could more than compensate for the loss of Ukraine’s exports by diverting crops destined to be made into biofuels into food production instead. New Scientist
  • The Landworkers’ alliance says the war should accelerate the transition towards regenerative, organic and agroecological agriculture. Read their statement in full here.
  • The Food, Farming and Countryside Commission says the war in Ukraine highlights the need for agroecological solutions and collaboration. Read more here.
  • The EU’s "Farm to Fork" strategy has been postponed indefinitely while member states review it in the context of Ukraine, with concerns over food shortages. With more than half of EU crops growing feed for animals WWF says “We don’t have a food crisis, we have a feed crisis.” Financial Times.
  • Henry Dimbleby speculates the war will delay the expected Food White paper: “I think we will be dealing with a horrific cost of living crisis plus a migration crisis, and that will take up all the political space. So I wouldn't be surprised if it got pushed back to the end of the year.” Read more here.
  • Environment Secretary George Eustice has warned that the price of chicken in the UK will spike as a result of the war. More here.
  • The war will lead to food shortages in every global region and could last well into next year warns Sky News
We invite you to share this newsletter with colleagues and friends and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Your feedback and suggestions are always welcome, so if you have an idea, get in touch!

With best wishes,

The Eating Better alliance team

Registered address: Chariot House, 44 Grand Parade, Brighton, BN2 9QA
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