Meat in a Net Zero world – UK to cut meat waste and emissions

30 June 2020

  • Collective action from farm to fork and public accountability – UK meat industry aims to become a world-leading model for sustainable production and supply.
  • Trade organisations, meat processors, retailers and hospitality and food service businesses unite to improve productivity, tackle deforestation, cut emissions and reduce the £3 billion of meat wasted in the UK every year*.

Thirty-eight of the UK’s largest organisations involved in the production and sale of meat today announce their ambition to halve the amount of meat that goes to waste each year in the UK, and help the UK achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under new collective action.

All major grocery retailers together with meat processors representing 80% of UK production, and hospitality and food service companies have signed up to Meat in a Net Zero world; developed under Courtauld Commitment 2025 and facilitated by WRAP.

Meat in a Net Zero world is supported by key trade bodies including the National Farmers Union (NFU)Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), the British Poultry Council (BPC), the British Retail Consortium (BRC)Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), the National Pig Association (NPA)Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA).

Peter Maddox, Director WRAP, said “There has never been a more critical time for action in our food system, and the current Covid-19 situation further illustrates this. I am delighted that despite the incredible pressure the sector is under keeping the nation fed, organisations remain committed to the ambitious sustainability goals laid out in Meat in a Net Zero world. And that WRAP could help industry develop and launch such a bold strategy. It is key that the focus is on every link in the supply chain from production, processing and sale, through to the customer – whether they are eating in or outside of the home. I’m confident that Meat in a Net Zero world will have a significant impact towards achieving our national and global targets. And believe this has the potential to become a blueprint that other nations will emulate."

WRAP estimates that each year around 380,000 tonnes of the meat intended for consumption goes uneaten, with the GHG emissions associated with this uneaten meat measuring more than 4 million tonnes CO2equivalents. Much of this meat is discarded in the home, but there are important actions to take at all points across the supply chain. A dedicated Meat Sector Working Group was convened by WRAP under Courtauld 2025 that brought together key stakeholders to identify the areas of biggest impact, and opportunities to overcome barriers and avoid just moving problems along the supply chain.

Meat in a Net Zero world aims to prevent more than 150,000 tonnes of meat from ending up as waste each year, worth £1.5 billion and make an important contribution to the UK’s target to bring all GHG emissions to net zero by 2050. An important first step is to agree and adopt a consistent approach for measuring GHG emissions, and common metrics that can be used within each sector – beef, sheep, pigs and poultry – which will be worked out through the Meat Sector Working Group, in combination with other industry forums.

Meat in a Net Zero world will help deliver against a number of industry initiatives including the NFU’s Net Zero vision, the European Roundtable for Beef Sustainability/UK Cattle Sustainability Platform and the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya. Greater collaboration will also help accelerate progress towards achieving targets set out in Courtauld 2025 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to halve per capita food waste by 2030.

WRAP will ensure participating companies are held to account by publicly reporting on progress.

NFU livestock board chairman Richard Findlay, said: “This collaboration will go a long way to supporting the NFU’s vision of net zero agriculture by 2040 and British livestock farmers are ready to play their part.

“When it comes to primary production, having a shared goal and strategy will help make sure all livestock farmers are moving in the right direction.

“Beyond the farm gate, it is a great opportunity to make improvements throughout the meat supply chain to reduce our collective carbon footprint, and it is important that every part of the supply chain is considered alongside the opportunities to reduce waste at home.”

Anna Proffitt, Policy Technical Manager BMPA (British Meat Processors Association), said “Increasing efficiency and reducing waste along the meat supply chain is of paramount importance to the sustainability of the sector. We fully support WRAP in bringing the meat supply chain together to undertake such important work, and are pleased that many of our members are signatories and active participants of Meat in a Net Zero world. We look forward to working closely with WRAP and members in driving the common objectives forwards.”

Leah Riley Brown, Sustainability Policy Advisor BRC (British Retail Consortium), said, “Retailers recognise the key part they have in tackling climate change and the leverage they can use to help reduce the environmental impact of the materials and manufacturing processes in our everyday products. Addressing food waste, particularly from meat production, is crucial in reducing emissions throughout the supply chain. From farmer to factories, we know it’s forward thinking ambitions that can help influence climate action when it comes to protecting the planet. Above all, it’s crucial that in a world where retail touches so many, we make a real positive difference.”


Notes to Editor

  • *Approximately £3 billion worth of meat goes to waste in the UK every year, three quarters of which is from our homes.
  • Signatories to the Meat in a Net Zero world agree to the following: “There has never been a more critical time for action. We are facing a warming world, with more people and less land, water, energy and other resources to go around.  As an industry we are committing to work together to ensure that we use these resources efficiently and minimise our impact on the environment, whilst safeguarding the health & welfare of our animals and the livelihoods of our producers. Never has it been more important that we produce food in a sustainable manner, including reducing food waste from farm to fork.  By working collectively, we aim to make the UK meat industry a world-leading example of efficient and sustainable meat production and supply’’ 
  • A full list of the businesses and organisations involved can be found here. Organisations interested in finding out how to become involved in Meat in a Net Zero world click here. 
  • The five priority areas to be focussed on are:
    • Primary production - the majority of GHG emissions occur while rearing livestock and poultry with pressure on water, feed, fuel and land utilisation. Farms are important sinks for carbon in soil and vegetation, and are increasingly investing in renewable energy generation. A key action is for companies to commit to the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya to source soya in ways that protect against deforestation and care for valuable native vegetation. Other actions assist the NFU’s Net Zero vision, and the UK Cattle Sustainability Platform as well as encouraging a common approach to measuring emissions and supporting knowledge exchange to help producers on the ground implement effective changes.
    • Processors – committing to the strategy of Target-Measure-Act aligned with the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap to reduce food waste. Businesses will also work to improve their energy efficiency and reduce water stress. 
    • Retail – meat waste will be tackled through a range of actions from packaging innovations such as skin packs and modified atmosphere packaging, to improvements in forecasting and stock control systems, and greater redistribution.
    • The home – the home will be a significant focus with more than 200,000 tonnes of meat that could have been eaten (worth over £2 billion), ending up as waste each year. Businesses are expected to support campaigns that raise awareness of household food waste, and address how products are packaged and sold to reduce food waste. Key will be widescale adoption of best practice labelling and storage guidance on poultry, pork, beef and lamb products, as well as extending product life, optimising pack size and encouraging freezing and the use of leftovers. 
    • Hospitality and food service sector – businesses will work with WRAP to identify why meat items are wasted and develop solutions, with support from the Guardians of Grub campaign
  • Actions for the UK meat industry under Meat in a Net Zero world include:
    • As a supply chain, help deliver productivity improvements, GHG emissions reductions and protect natural assets (soil, water etc.) during livestock (cattle, sheep, pigs) and poultry rearing;
    • Source soya for use in feed which is cultivated in ways that protects against deforestation and native vegetation; 
    • Large meat processors, retailers and hospitality and food service businesses to reduce operational food waste, GHG emissions and water impacts; and 
    • Help halve meat thrown away in the home.
  • As part of wider work on GHG reduction, WRAP has convened a new working group within Courtauld 2025 to make faster and more effective collective progress towards reducing emissions in food & drink supply chains. It will address barriers to action, such as measurement inconsistencies. This needs a whole-supply-chain approach, to avoid shifting the burden along the chain.
  • WRAP is a not for profit organisation founded in 2000 which works with governments, businesses and citizens to create a world in which we source and use resources sustainably. Our impact spans the entire lifecycle of the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the products we buy, from production to consumption and beyond.