Stop “project fear” when talking about food production, says new Institute for Sustainability chief
The UK, and indeed the world, needs to transition to producing and eating ‘less but better’ meat, according to a new University of Surrey paper - but ‘less’ and ‘better’ must be defined.
Professor Lorenzo Fioramonti, incoming Director of the Institute for Sustainability at the University of Surrey, said:
“For too long, we have perceived 'sustainability' negatively, as a sacrifice, but it actually means achieving a better life: better production, better consumption, better environment and better health. The science has been clear for some time that meat production impacts our health and that of the planet. Yet we have not always made a positive case to encourage the public to change. We have relied primarily on 'project fear', while we should have shown how a different diet can be massively positive for our quality of life.”
Surrey’s paper, published in Nature Food, identifies a need to clarify the terms ‘less’ and ‘better’ to facilitate a livestock system sustainability transition in the Western world. Findings indicate we need to eat a lot less meat than we do currently. In the studies reviewed, ‘better’ meat is that which delivers positive outcomes for animal welfare, human health and nutrition, and environmental sustainability. The study identifies a pressing need to establish a shared global vision for livestock production and meat consumption which can enable action across industry and policy in pursuit of food system sustainability.
Joanna Trewern, co-author of the paper and a doctoral practitioner in sustainability at the University of Surrey, commented:
“While there is a general agreement that livestock production contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, poor water quality and deforestation, it is also recognised that livestock can support biodiversity and landscape preservation.
“‘Less but better’ meat is not a new term, as multiple reports use the phrase. However, our research identified a gap in how the phrase is being used, defined, and interpreted in scientific literature, which is an important first step in identifying areas of agreement and tension, as well as any knowledge gaps.”
Joanna Trewern is available for interview upon request
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The University of Surrey is a research-intensive university, producing world-leading research that transforms lives and changes the world for the better. Sustainability is an institution-wide area of focus, delivering multi-disciplinary research to tackle the many challenges of climate change. The University is also committed to improving its own resource efficiency on its estate and being a sector leader. It has set a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030. A focus on research that makes a difference to the world has contributed to Surrey being ranked 55th in the world in the Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings 2022, which assesses more than 1,400 universities' performance against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).