BMPA updates, as they happen, on developing issues in the meat industry.
Contains links to member only content.
The IPCC launched its report-of-reports this week at a live press conference. It’s designed to give a high level but comprehensive steer to policy makers around the world on what to do next about climate change. We did a quick initial scan of the full report to see how our industry fits into the equation.
We discovered that, rather than focusing on encouraging everyone to adopt a plant-based diet, the authors emphasised the importance of sustainably producing food that supports human health, alongside reduced food loss and waste. They explain that “Balanced diets refer to diets that feature plant-based foods, such as those based on coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low-GHG emission systems.”
The UK already produces meat that has a lower GHG profile than the global average, and is working hard to reduce that even further through initiatives like Dawn/Dunbia’s Plan Four Zero and ABP’s Prism 2030 collaboration with farmers.
This week saw the publication of a new report from campaign group Changing Markets Foundation which seeks to expose misleading environmental claims made by food companies. It also takes aim at accreditation bodies like Red Tractor, which is accused of ’empty labelling’. In addition the report presents research into how consumers respond positively to green claims and offers recommendations for companies and policy makers on how to avoid unfairly capitalising on people’s environmental concerns.
This latest report contributes to an environment where challenges to green claims are becoming stronger and more prevalent, as evidenced by the recent example in the States were JBS were ordered to “discontinue claims relating to its goal of achieving ‘net-zero’ emissions by 2040”.
Food Manufacture’s new Editor, Bethan Grylls has just completed a seven-part Spotlight Series focusing on food insecurity in Britain. After this week’s unexpected rise in inflation, largely driven by food prices, Bethan asks seven industry experts for their take on what’s happening and what can be done to mitigate this growing problem.
In episode two, Nick Allen highlights what changes could be made to regulation and legislation and how the sector should be supported. Also, in episode three, Mike Wijnberg, Technical Director at BMPA member company Pilgrims Pride discusses red tape, rising costs and the challenges of delivering on sustainability goals. We’d encourage you to watch the whole series.
“The solution to negative consumer perceptions of red meat is more honest communication.” That’s the motion that finalists from University College Cork and South East Technological University will be debating on 28 March at Butchers Hall in London. You can also tune in live online.
For the last eight years, the great debate has showcased the best up-and-coming talent in a series of debates focused on key issues that the industry is facing. It’s an opportunity to hear fresh thinking and new perspectives on everything from the long term profitability of livestock production through to whether plant-based diets and climate change policy are compatible with both human and planetary health.
UK trade negotiators are seemingly weeks away from agreeing terms under which to join the 11 member Asia-Pacific trade bloc, the CPTPP. However, as the FT’s Alan Beattie reports, they’re having to make some punishing concessions (à la the Australia and NZ trade deals) but for a ‘pitiful’ gain in GDP. Mr Beattie conjures a graphic image to explain the benefits for Britain: “To express economic growth in decibel form, the UK joining the deal in its current form is a cat sneezing three rooms away.”
Elsewhere, the UK is engaged in negotiating a trade deal with Canada which could also see British negotiators wrestling with the prospect of further opening up the UK beef market and the thorny issue of differential welfare standards. Politico’s Graham Lanktree and Sebastian Whale have the details. Nick Allen also addressed the issue this week.
New and much more rigorous requirements for reporting ESG performance over a wider range of topics will be introduced by the EU for the financial year starting Jan 1 2024. This won’t affect all companies headquartered outside the EU, but it could affect some large organisations with a substantial presence in the EU, for example EU subsidiaries of UK companies.
The new EU rules are substantially different from the approach taken in the UK, and involve a significant increase to the number of metrics and targets that companies need to report on across the entire value chain. The clock is ticking for those affected to get ready, as this update (published late 2022) from law firm Sidley outlines.
A new open-source life-cycle assessment system to measure a food’s environmental impact has been released by Foundation Earth this week. It’s based on the EU Product Environmental Footprint (PRF) system but, they claim, with enhancements to tailor it more to food and drink products rather than the catch-all PEF which covers everything from decorative paints to T-shirts.
It looks as though Foundation Earth are aiming to get their system widely adopted ahead of the EU implementing the new PEF system, which is expected in 2024. At that point, the UK will likely have to follow suit and align with the new EU requirements. This could be the closest yet to a system that receives broad acceptance but, as we’ve cautioned before, if the way British meat is measured and scored has built-in flaws because the specific method of production isn’t considered, it could be unfairly represented to consumers.
Following an investigation into the merger of E&J and Vorenta, the Competition and Markets Authority have found competition concerns for the supply of veterinary services to abattoirs, border control and agriculture and for the supply of Export Health Certificates. The investigation found that: “the combined businesses would account for a significant proportion of these specialised veterinary services providers in England, Wales, and Scotland. This could lead to a significant lessening of competition and result in higher costs for food businesses and lower quality in the provision of these services which are in place to safeguard the general public.”
E&J were given five days to offer a proposal to address the CMA’s concerns, which the CMA will then have five days to assess and judge whether a phase 2 investigation should be launched. By our reckoning we should be seeing the next update early next week.
Last year BMPA wrote to Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet to challenge its Global Burden of Disease study and to ask him to remove it from the publication. We, along with numerous eminent scientists were concerned that incorrect information is being used to influence people’s dietary choices and public health policy.
We can update you on the latest development. While the study has not been removed, BMPA’s letter along with one from AHDB have both been published today in the latest Lancet. It’s encouraging that our voice, along with a growing number of others has been officially recognised by The Lancet and added to the debate.
Yesterday’s Farming Today returned to the question of whether and how we should introduce compulsory welfare labelling on meat. They took a look at the various methods of pig production to illustrate that clear, understandable consumer labelling is not that simple for meat; certainly not as simple as the much quoted free-range egg example.
Listen (from 3:45 minutes)
Meat Management reported this week that the Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education is considering an overhaul of their Butchery standards which could see the Level 3 Advanced Butcher dropped and the Level 2 Butcher training expanded to include aspects of L3. There’s also talk of tailoring the training less around craft butchery and more around skills specific to meat processing.
This would seem to be positive for meat processors, making the training more fit for their purposes and hopefully leading to a higher uptake. However concerns remain over dropping the higher L3 qualification as this is still seen as a good way for employees to demonstrate progression and as a useful step on the road to becoming a Master Butcher (considered to be level 6).
Rishi Sunak’s Windsor Framework not only provides clarity and surety for companies carrying out trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but also represents a big step forward for the UK’s trading relationship with the EU. In the words of staunch Brexiteer Steve Baker, “he’s done it.”
While it’s still got to get approval from the DUP and get voted through Parliament, what Sunak and his team have done is provide a good example of how to catch more flies with honey, and hopefully pave the way for future collaborative and productive negotiations with our nearest and most important trading partner.
Last year BMPA published a report in response to Defra’s consultation into contracts in the pig sector. We warned at the time that it was focused on too small a part of what is one of the most complex food supply chains you’ll find (our report includes a diagram that illustrates just how complex it is). Our main concern was that the consultation will leave Defra with insufficient information on which to base decisions.
Defra are now preparing to publish their response and recommendations, which were due at the end of February but have been delayed. However, from recent discussions with those involved, we are still concerned that there are large gaps in understanding of how the pig supply chain works, and that there remains the danger that well-intentioned changes to the system could end up backfiring. BMPA continues to engage with Government to offer the bigger picture perspective, and we’ll keep you informed of developments.
Following reports that UK meat processors have been forced to send whole carcases to the continent to be processed in EU plants, Nick Allen explains to BBC Farming Today how this has come about and the implications for the British meat industry and the wider UK economy.
Expanding on warnings that BMPA has made before, Nick described the contraction the industry is facing if Government continue to refuse to implement the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee to add butchers to the Shortage Occupation List.
Listen (from 8:06 minutes)
Following Defra Minister Mark Spencer’s announcement at the NFU Conference that the UK could soon be importing Mexican beef under a new free trade agreement, the Chair of the Climate Change Committee Lord Deben was prompted to write to Mr Spencer to caution against it. He contends that by allowing the import of beef with a higher carbon footprint than that produced in Britain, the Government would be jeopardising its carbon targets.
Lord Deben said: “”The UK cannot reach our legal commitments and international obligations under the agreements at Paris and Glasgow unless our agriculture sector plays its part.” He went on to say: “That must not be compromised by a decision to allow the importation of meat with a higher carbon footprint than our own.”
It’s fair to say that the NFU Conference has never been a wholly benign environment for Government ministers, and this year was no exception. There were some uncomfortable questions from the floor on the less-than-satisfactory post-Brexit trade deals recently negotiated; and there were some awkward moments during Therese Coffey’s Q&A, prompted by her comments on egg shortages and the recent pig crisis.
Farming Today had some excellent coverage of the highlights from Day One and Day Two (from 5:18 minutes) which will give you a flavour of how it all went. And for a longer look at the announcements, pledges and vigorous discussions you can read this…
The Investor Coalition on Food Policy held its inaugural UK summit this month, bringing together heavy-hitting investment companies with over £6 trillion of assets under management. They discussed how they might use their considerable clout to influence both government policy and how food companies operate in order to mitigate the contribution of agri-food to climate change.
As we’ve advocated previously, there was a strong consensus that accurate metrics for measuring climate impact are vital if policy makers and consumers are to be enabled to make informed decisions. To that end, Defra has launched a new Food Data Transparency Partnership which will, over the next five years, seek to scrutinise different approaches, and develop a consistent set of metrics to measure improvement and inform public policy. As always, we caution that a good idea badly executed can have unwelcome consequences. So, it’s incumbent on producers, food companies, retailers, investors and Government to get the metrics right.
In a wide ranging interview on the Today Programme, Ex Unilever Chief Executive Paul Polman had some interesting insights into what companies need to be doing to attract and retain the best people, and incentivise a better food system. He said nearly half of our workforce comprises of Generation Z and Millennials, who increasingly demand that their employer’s values and commitment to the environment aligns with their own.
Speaking about recent remarks by Tesco’s John Allen that food suppliers are hiking prices unfairly, Mr Polman was firmly of the opposite opinion, saying: “It is exactly the retailers … that have ensured that our lands are degraded, that the farmers are poor, that the agricultural methods are becoming increasingly unsustainable. So perhaps this is the moment to recognise that food has more value than we’ve given it today and invest in converting to a more sustainable, more nutritious food system that …. we all would benefit from”. The whole interview is well worth a listen.
Listen (from 17:32)
David Eudall, AHDB’s Economics and Analysis Director guides you through the latest outlook reports for the UK beef, lamb and pork sectors.
This new release also delves into consumer attitudes, the retail and food service markets and looks further afield to the international trade environment.
In the latest incomprehensible move by the Home Office, a key review of the UK’s Shortage Occupation List has been put on hold while it mulls what to do about the labour crisis currently hobbling multiple key sectors, including ours.
Speaking to Adam Payne at Politics Home, Nick Allen said: “The current skills and labour shortage we’re experiencing in the meat industry has forced some companies to move part of their production to the continent. It’s meant that a portion of the UK’s productive GDP and tax revenue has been shifted offshore because the right workers are simply not available in the UK.”
The Public and Commercial Services Union have announced possible strike action by APHA’s Centre for International Trade Team between 13-17 and 20-24 February. If it goes ahead, which seems likely, companies exporting products of animal origin could struggle to get Export Health Certificates issued.
In their announcement, APHA is encouraging those who use these services “to plan-ahead and submit any service-related requests to APHA in advance of the period of strike action.” We’ve pushed for further clarification and will update members as new information becomes available.
In a further sign that authorities around the world are cracking-down on potentially misleading marketing, Sweden’s consumer watchdog has banned Arla from describing its products as having a ‘net-zero climate footprint’. This comes after the launch of the UK Competition and Markets Authority investigation into products claiming green credentials.
This higher level of scrutiny is now extending to other food and farming claims commonly used by businesses. In a recent report, the Food and Land Use Coalition drew particular attention to the term ‘regenerative farming’ which they say has no agreed universal definition. The report calls for an “outcomes-based framework for measuring, assessing and scaling regenerative agricultural practices that benefit people and [the] planet”.
We listened to an interesting radio programme this week. Assignment’s “The Great German Sausage Crisis” exposes how the acute labour shortage in Germany has affected many of its industries but focuses on its traditional sausage making sector in particular.
The programme explains how an ageing demographic has meant that new recruits into butchery are increasingly hard to find. So much so that a local Chamber of Handcraft in south-western Germany has set up a three year training programme to recruit apprentices from India.
We asked our Technical Policy Manager, Nan Jones to reflect on the changes to the UK meat industry that Brexit has precipitated. Notwithstanding the difficulties posed by Covid and the war in Ukraine (which affected all countries), it’s possible to isolate the peculiar challenges posed by leaving the single market and customs union.
In her new article, she looks at some of those challenges including labour shortages and red tape. And she highlights some of the unexpected barriers to trade that have come about as a result. If Government wants economic growth, it will need to look again at its workforce and immigration policy and unlock the means for companies to grow.
The Behavioural Insights Team (formerly the UK Government’s ‘Nudge Unit’) has published a fascinating report that details their blueprint for bringing about behavioural change to achieve net zero. It paints a picture of the kind of policy environment that businesses across many sectors (food, transport, clothing etc.) could find themselves in over coming years.
A large part of it concerns recommendations on how best to design and then frame (through communications) measures to curb meat consumption. It covers the nudges and incentives that could be applied at all levels from policy and regulation measures to encourage businesses to change, through to advice and marketing to consumers. There are some very interesting statistics in the report that show the level of support amongst the public for certain measures, and the level of willingness to go along with them.
During a recent webinar hosted by Sodexo, a McKinsey senior partner shared data showing an alarming 40% of workers globally are planning to leave their current job in the next 3-6 months. The presentation highlighted a particular set of issues faced by women, with the contention that firms with more gender equality in their workforce perform better than their peers.
There are some interesting examples of what companies like Sodexo and Unilever are doing to attract and retain more women into their workforces but also how they’re ensuring that flexibility of working conditions should work equally for both men and women.
Made entirely from pork cells without the need for plant-based scaffolds, the scientists at 3D Bio-Tissues have produced the world’s first 100% lab-grown meat fillet which they report has remarkably similar properties to the real thing of texture, taste and aroma, both cooked and un-cooked.
They now plan to produce a full-scale fillet which will be showcased, cooked and eaten by a select panel at an upcoming London event.
The authors of the contentious Global Burden of Disease study in the Lancet recently published another study in a different journal. The new Burden of Proof study looked at years of previous research into the link between red meat and heart disease, and formulated a new star rating system to demonstrate the level of risk. Interestingly it concluded that “a conservative interpretation of the available evidence suggests that there is weak to no evidence of an association between red meat consumption and ischemic heart disease.”
That said, they advised that there is also a need for more large-scale studies into red meat consumption to better inform policy makers, adding that “public policy should pay attention not only to the risk functions that are supported by evidence but the prevalence of exposure to those risks.” This suggests that red meat with its low (2 star) risk profile eaten in moderation (low prevalence) as part of a balanced diet should pose few health risks.
The Competition and Markets Authority has launched an investigation into products claiming green credentials. It’s to combat what seems to be widespread ‘greenwashing’ by brand owners unable to back up their sustainability claims with solid evidence. The CMA’s Chief Executive, Sarah Cardell said: “We’re concerned many shoppers are being misled and potentially even paying a premium for products that aren’t what they seem.”
As Judith Evans in her Financial Times article points out: “The clampdown echoes measures by the EU to combat greenwashing, including draft legislation that would require green claims to be backed up with evidence”. Incredibly she reveals that the European Commission has found over half of such claims to be misleading.
Last October, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority hosted a summit which brought together leading scientists from across relevant disciplines to present a comprehensive synopsis of the scientific insights on the role of meat in society.
Presentations covered the ecological, nutritional, health, economic and ethical aspects of meat production and consumption as well as a look into the future and what implications the alternative protein market has in store. The full suite of presentations has now been made available to view.
“The Government leaves agricultural producers exposed to risk, some might go as far as to characterise this as playing fast and loose with agricultural in the UK.” That’s the criticism levelled by Chair of the International Trade Committee, Angus Brendan Mc Neil MP following today’s response from Government to the Committee’s scathing report on the shortcomings of the New Zealand trade deal.
Regular readers will be fully aware of those shortcomings but it’s still notable to hear the exasperation in the International Trade Committee’s press release which reveals that Government has completely ignored the “well-founded fears of producers that throwing open the UK’s agri-food markets to cheaper products could see them overwhelmed, undermining food security.”
Ian Anderson, who served as Executive Manager of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers until 2017, reflects on the life and work of Martin Morgan in this personal recollection of a long and dedicated career serving the Scottish meat industry.
Australian tech startup Rumin8 has raised $12m in funding from the investment firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which was started by Bill Gates in 2015 and is also backed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma. The money will be used to speed up the commercialisation of Rumin8’s methane-reducing feed additive.
This funding from such high-profile investors and climate campaigners not only represents a boost to the global methane emissions challenge, but sends a significant message that the need for healthy, sustainable protein across the globe can and should include livestock as part of the solution.
In his latest article BMPA’s Trade Policy Adviser, Peter Hardwick explores how the so-called ‘Swiss model’ of trade with the EU manages to forge a relationship that brings most of the benefits of EU membership without many of the down sides. He explains how Switzerland has taken a much more pragmatic path to their trade agreement. It follows EU rules (and autonomously adapts to changes when they happen) without being legally bound to do so.
Peter contends that “the principal flaw with Brexit as it stands isn’t necessarily Brexit itself but how it is being pursued and what is driving it” and urges Government to “take another look at this and act in the interests of the UK rather than to meet the aspirations of those driven by dogma”. He concludes with an insightful observation from his wife: “Ah the Swiss. They join nothing and get everything.”
We were saddened to hear of the death of Martin Morgan this week, and would like to extend our deepest condolences to his wife Jacki and family. As the Executive Manager of our sister organisation the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW), Martin was a familiar face to all our members.
His deep knowledge of the meat and livestock industry, his tenacious approach, along with an insider’s knowledge of the workings of the Scottish Government meant he was well fitted to defend the interests of the Scottish red meat sector. His work on behalf of members was widely appreciated, and he will be greatly missed.