At a recent meeting of its Business Forum, the Food Ethics Council reviewed livestock production in the context of climate change and the following key points emerged:
*Livestock contribute about eight percent of total greenhouse gas emissions from UK consumption. Meat accounts for more than two-thirds of that.
*UK consumption of poultry meat has doubled over the past 20 years, whereas red meat and pork has remained static. UK per capita consumption is well above the world average.
*Changes to production can increase efficiency and reduce emissions, but producers should be alert to potential trade-offs with other sustainability criteria and animal welfare.
*Policy makers are exploring the scope to reduce emissions by reducing meat demand. The economics of this are uncertain and, though potentially costly for UK meat producers, would not necessarily harm them.
*Initiatives to promote sustainable production and consumption must consider: (a) differences between livestock species, business models and production systems; (b) opportunity costs of sustainability strategies; (c) what foods we would eat instead if we ate less meat.
*Businesses should expect a range of public and private sector initiatives intended to improve the sustainability not only of specific products, but also of the diet that we produce, sell and eat.
The last two points should be relevant to the CAP, but there is little evidence that they are being considered in any systematic way.