Comment: Why we can’t afford to ignore climate change criticism

By Mark Williams, chief executive, British Egg Industry Council

The environmental impact of food and farming has been placed in the spotlight recently. The UN’s IPCC report made headlines when it warned that there were only 12 years left to limit the average global temperature to a 1.5oC increase on today’s average, citing one of the ways to mitigate climate change was to reduce meat consumption and livestock production as a whole.

Preceding and subsequent studies have also said this, and many have promoted a shift to vegetarianism or veganism, driven by environmental sentiment.

Whilst red meat has taken the brunt of criticism, our sector will certainly not be immune as momentum gains. We must therefore inform people about how our sector has comparatively low emissions to other sectors of agriculture, as well as other industries. Continuing to stay silent on the issue will not cut it.

Climate change continues to move up the agenda, and farming is taking more than its share of the criticism. We have always responded to market demand and will continue to do so. First and foremost, our job is to produce a high quality, healthy, safe and affordable wonder food for consumers, but of course we need to demonstrate that we are continuing to seek to produce eggs in a more efficient manner and emphasise this to the consumer.

Going forward, we intend to be more visible in demonstrating to consumers and opinion formers that egg production has a low carbon footprint and, through the use of technology, we will seek to reduce it even further. We also need to challenge some of the merits of egg alternatives produced in laboratories, as well as the substitute vegetable products. Many of these alternatives use beans that come from overseas and are transported across the world with a much higher carbon footprint.

With the population increasing both domestically and globally, we will need more food and must rise to that challenge and the challenges of reducing our environmental impact in tandem. There is a place for all diets and produce and consumers should have the freedom to choose. We as an industry know our responsibility to the environment and take it seriously, others must do the same if we are to limit climate change and sustain a healthy population.

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