UK meat sector rises to the challenge of climate change, farm to fork

14 September 2021

WRAP reports on Meat in a Net Zero world first year results, with progress across all action areas and new supporters in key sectors.

In June 2020, WRAP launched Meat in a Net Zero world, with 40 stakeholders across the UK meat production and supply chain collaborating with WRAP, and pledging to make the UK meat industry one of the most efficient and sustainable in the world. Recognising that we won’t fix climate change unless we fix the food system, they committed to actions across four target areas – with the overall aim to reduce meat waste and GHG emissions along the meat supply chain and protect natural assets, such as water and forests. These actions will contribute towards existing national and global targets:

  • Courtauld Commitment 2030 - halve food waste and food system GHG emissions by 2030 and tackle water stress, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
  • NFU - net zero GHG emissions across the whole of UK agriculture by 2040.
  • UK - all GHG emissions to net zero by 2050.

Today, WRAP release the one-year on Annual Progress Summary 2020 – 2021 for Meat in a Net Zero world.

Key progress in its first year

Target Area One - Helping to improve productivity, protect natural assets and reduce GHG emissions when rearing animals, while maintaining world-leading animal welfare standards.

  • 60% of business supporters have set net zero or science-based GHG reduction targets across the whole supply chain, including agricultural (scope 3) emissions.
  • New farm-level metrics agreed for key meat categories (poultry, pig, beef and lamb) to help track progress against above targets – and national-level targets.
  • Retailers and processors have reported a significant and increasing amount of R&D activity being focused in priority areas, such as feed innovations.

Target Area Two - Reducing meat waste, GHG emissions and water impacts in the supply chain.

  • Meat processors reported a collective reduction in food waste of more than 20,000 tonnes – an average 30% reduction. 
  • All businesses set a GHG reduction target and reported year-on-year improvements – up to 30% reduction in emissions intensity (scope 1 and 2) over the last year.
  • All processors reported having water efficiency targets and year-on-year improvements –up to 15% reduction in intensity of water use.

Target Area Three - Protecting the world’s forests by sourcing raw materials that avoids deforestation.

  • Efeca (facilitator of the Roundtable on Sustainable Soya) estimate that 32% of soya imported into the UK in 2019 was covered by a deforestation- and conversion- free certified soya standard. 
  • Combined, the total proportion of soya imported into the UK in 2019 considered to be from sources at low risk of deforestation/conversion or covered by a deforestation- and conversion- free certified soya standard amounts to 62% (Efeca). 

Target Area Four - Helping to halve the amount of meat thrown away in and out of home:

  • Many positive behaviours were adopted by householders during and after national lockdowns (e.g. pre-shop planning, freezer management, using leftovers), demonstrating that there is scope for positive change, but as restrictions lifted, self-reported food waste appears to be increasing. 
  • Businesses have stepped up to help reinforce positive behaviours by strengthening adoption of best practice for on-pack labelling and guidance.  For example, all retailers have now removed the term ‘Freeze on Day of Purchase’ from packaging, or are working towards this. WRAP estimates this could help reduce waste by c.15,000 tonnes/year.
  • Businesses widely supported the inaugural Food Waste Action Week.

Taking targeted action

Momentum for Meat in a Net Zero world is building, with the need for change widely recognized. To continue its success, the following focus areas have been identified:

  • More robust data are required for decision-making.
  • Existing technologies need to be advanced and new innovations developed.  For example, further investment is needed in soya alternatives, such as insect meal, other novel proteins, domestic-grown legumes, etc.
  • Further need to tackle priority behaviours to reduce meat waste occurring at home - such as planning, freezing & defrosting and using leftovers.
  • We also need to better understand ways to tackle meat wastage when eating out of home.
  • Commitment to WRAP initiatives such as the Courtauld Commitment 2030, the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap and Guardians of Grub.  

WRAP is delighted to welcome the following new supporters from a range of sectors, including prominent players in the Hospitality and Food Service sector, to Meat in a Net Zero world:

Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) KFC UKI

Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS)

NFU Scotland
CH&CO Catering McDonald’s UK & Ireland

Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL)

Provision Trade Federation (PTF)
Compass Group UK & Ireland Randall Parker Foods
Duynie Feed Westaway Sausages

Fabra UK


Industry quotes

Karen Fisher, Head of Climate Action Strategy, WRAP: “Whilst the call to eat less meat is widely acknowledged, we recognise that there is still a role for meat produced to high welfare, climate and environmental standards in our diet. It is, therefore, critical that the industry works together towards these aims. Against the backdrop of the unprecedented challenges that the Covid crisis has presented, the industry has taken some important steps forward. The momentum is building, the need for change is widely recognised and this is reflected in the number of new businesses and wider organisations joining this commitment – including more representatives from the hospitality & food service sector and the feed industry, amongst others.”

Victoria Prentis, Food Minister: I am pleased that so many organisations have joined WRAP to advance the ambitious goal of ensuring that the UK meat industry is one of the most sustainable in the world. Our food is amongst the very best globally, and today’s Annual Progress Summary clearly shows meaningful progress to measure and actively reduce industry’s impact on the environment, on all stages of production - from rearing animals to reducing meat waste in our homes. We all have a part to play. I encourage more companies to sign up, and urge every one of us to understand what we can do in our everyday lives to make a difference.”

Dr Jonathan Foot, Head of Environment, AHDB: “It’s encouraging to see the considerable progress being made across the industry to meet its Net Zero goals, along with gaining additional sponsors. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has worked with 40 other stakeholders to agree the new metrics to track progress towards reducing agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions from beef, lamb and pork production. The simple metrics will enable any farm, regardless of location, enterprise, or scale to explore options to reduce carbon and work towards Net Zero. Over the last year AHDB has supported an initial drive to carbon footprint on-farm and has recently secured funding through the Farm Business Review to roll foot printing out wider to 200 farms. This will enable farmers and growers to identify carbon saving activities and implement reduction plans. AHDB continues to support the livestock industry to cut carbon, however, advancements in nutrition, genetics and technology will also be needed to reach our Net Zero goal.“

Jane Salter, Head of Environment, AIC We are the voice of the suppliers of inputs to farms who supply the food and drink sector. We know that buying decisions for responsibly-sourced raw materials for animal feeds lie entirely in our hands, and we are ideally placed to be a significant part of the solution in WRAP’S ‘Meat in a Net Zero world’ initiative. AIC has welcomed the opportunity to engage positively with all stakeholders over the past year. It is in the growing of healthy crops for feed materials and the feeding of animals on farm where we work with others to make a collective difference. Improvements in soil management, more efficient use of nutrients on farm, and the circular economy, will be required to achieve the meat footprint reductions sought by WRAP’s initiative. All elements of the AIC Roadmap for a sustainable food chain, and professional advice to farm through the Feed Advisers Register (FAR) and crop nutritional advice (FACTS) will be required to deliver our objectives.”

Andrew Opie, Director of Food & Sustainability, BRC: “The Meat in a Net Zero World report is a great contribution to a vital debate. Retailers are constantly looking at how they can take consumers with them on a journey to net zero that ensures choice and balance, whilst accepting the need to recognise the impact of meat and dairy.”

Michael Hickman, Foodservice Director, Compass Group UK & Ireland: “Working to achieve climate net zero in the food sector, requires a collaborative commitment from all food businesses. WRAP’s “Meat in a Net Zero World” initiative is a positive step to ensure all those in the food industry are working together to achieve more sustainable operations and solutions. Our Net Zero roadmap clearly outlines our targets in reducing animal-based proteins in our supply chain, supporting regenerative agriculture and reducing food waste. Working together we will make a huge impact in creating a more sustainable food service for our customers and clients.”

Juliane Caillouette-Noble, Managing Director, Sustainable Restaurant Association: “With the 2021 development of the Net Zero Protocols for Restaurants, Pubs and Bars with our partners Net Zero Now, we’ve opened the eyes of operators to both the serious impact meat has on their overall footprint, and the great potential for reducing that footprint, through a range of measures. Armed with that information we’re optimistic operators will seek out more climate-friendly protein sources, take actions to waste less, and engage their staff and customers in the process across the year ahead.”

Notes to Editor

  • The Meat in a Net Zero World Annual Progress Summary is part of a major series of outputs from WRAP in the run up to COP26, highlighting the issue that we won’t fix climate change unless we fix the food system.
  • Full details and a list of existing supporters can be found here.
  • WRAP is a global NGO based in the UK. It is one of the UK’s top five environmental charities and works with governments, businesses and individuals to ensure that the world’s natural resources are used sustainably. It is the charity leading the Courtauld Commitment, the UK Plastics Pact (a world first) as well as Love Food Hate Waste, Guardians of Grub, the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan, Textiles 2030 and Recycle Now. WRAP works collaboratively and develops and delivers evidence-based, impactful solutions to reduce the environmental cost of the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the plastic packaging we use. Founded in 2000 in the UK, WRAP now works around the world and is a Global Alliance Partner of The Royal Foundation’s Earthshot Prize
  • The Courtauld Commitment 2030 is WRAP’s voluntary agreement that enables collaborative action across the entire UK food chain to deliver farm-to-fork reductions in food waste, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and water stress that will help the UK food and drink sector achieve global environmental goals.
  • The UK's largest retailers, food producers, manufacturers, and hospitality and food service companies have committed to milestones laid out in the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, developed by IGD and WRAP to tackle food waste in the UK. To accompany the Roadmap and Toolkit there is a range of guidance and templates to help businesses to 'Target, Measure and Act' on food waste.
  • Guardians of Grub is WRAP's food waste reduction campaign to tackle the £3 billion of food thrown away at hospitality and food service outlets.
  • Led by WRAP, Love Food Hate Waste has developed world-leading programmes for preventing food from being wasted. It unites, motivates, and inspires citizens to keep food out of the bin and on their plates. Underpinned by robust research, LFHW works with strategic partners to build and deliver insightful campaigns, taking its message directly to citizens in practical, achievable ways. LFHW believes in challenging attitudes, behaviours and mindsets to ensure citizens know the value of food: buying what they need, eating what they buy, and storing their food correctly.

Contact Frances Armitage, Media Relations Specialist: [email protected] Tel: 07971 656172