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Natural Capital Update: Meat is a low emitter of greenhouse gases – we must find a balance in food production

Ian Hope


I listened with interest on the first weekday of COP26 as the people of Glasgow were interviewed on the radio. When asked about what needed to change, the common response was to stop eating meat.


No mention of electric cars, less travel, more public transport, more sustainable buildings, greater renewable energy, air and water quality, just stop eating meat!

It’s time for some perspective. Livestock farming is one of the smallest emitters of greenhouse gases in the UK at only 6%, according to Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. Emissions from energy and transport make up almost 50%.


It seems easy to blame the meat industry for the problem, when in fact it is people and their behaviour.


This isn’t a case of meat or no meat, we need to find a balance. We have an ongoing challenge to feed an ever growing population!


Greater focus should be given to the provenance of meat. In the UK our red meat production is one of the most sustainable in the world. Largely reared on a grass fed diet (grassland is one of the most prolific vehicles for sequestering carbon) with infrastructure well in place it would be wrong to dismiss this source of protein.


Whilst efforts can be made to make these practices even more sustainable, red meat production in the UK is far more sustainable than mass beef production in, for example, the Amazon rainforest, which is prey to deforestation.


A Carbon Tax should be introduced to imported red meat that isn’t reared under sustainable practices at least equal to our own – it should also include food miles.


The UK agricultural sector is well aware of the challenges. As it progressively adopts regenerative farming techniques, our red meat industry will be one of the most sustainable in the world.



Natural Capital: Expert advisers at Galbraith guide our clients in realising value in all land uses – by assessing and measuring natural assets, furthering opportunities in biodiversity net gain, and ensuring stakeholders are rewarded fully for their investment in and contribution to delivering ecosystem services and net-zero outcomes.