NSA responds to the National Food Strategy report
16th July 2021
The National Sheep Association (NSA) is welcoming the release of the long-awaited National Food Strategy. The Association supports many of the recommendations included in the strategy but still questions some of the assumptions made around the carbon footprints of the UK’s predominantly grass-based ruminant (cattle and sheep) production.
NSA welcomes the highlighting of the Government’s response to recommendations made in part one of the strategy, and while it recognises there has been action on four of seven recommendations, NSA is frustrated that two key recommendations have not been taken forward, namely, to give preferential tariffs only to food imports that meet our standards and to give Parliament adequate time to discuss and scrutinise any new trade deal in advance of commitments in principle being made.
As NSA Chief Executive, Phil Stocker points out: “Healthy diets based on unadulterated, balanced, and varied ingredients are proven to bring direct benefits to quality of life, as well as reducing pressure and costs of health services. And of course, diets, farming and food production, and the supply chains that connect the two are completely intertwined and should not be looked at in isolation.
“As you’d expect I am looking at the strategy through a sheep farming lens, and lamb and mutton, produced mainly from grass, seems to fit many of the recommendations set out in the strategy. It is mostly consumed as an unprocessed food and eaten as part of a healthy balanced diet. It is not associated with junk or adulterated foods and average consumption rates for lamb show that it's eaten well within recommended meat intake levels. We have evidence that grass-fed lamb and mutton has high levels of beneficial acids, oils and micronutrients, and of course, sheep farming is practised mainly on grassland that grows with the aid of little more than sunshine and rain, and it regrows without needing to be replanted. While all this is happening the soil is capturing and holding carbon and our grasslands provide a home and food source for nature. You could hardly imagine anything more sustainable or renewable. We are pleased to read the recommendations for a sensitive transition from BPS to ELMS in order to protect rural economies, communities and the countryside.”
Adding a word of caution, Mr Stocker continues: “NSA wholeheartedly acknowledges the need for balanced diets, based on a good mix of fruit, grains, meat and vegetables, but global food production is not all produced to the high and exacting standards that British farming is known for, and the report highlights that food carbon footprinting only takes account of the footprint that happens while in Britain. In addition, the fact that methane is misrepresented through conversion to carbon equivalents is still not being fully recognised. There couldn’t be a more misleading or distorting way of measuring the footprint of our food, and it’s no wonder consumers are confused, and policy makers make bad decisions.”
NSA agrees with a need to reshape the food system, but Mr Stocker stresses the need for care: “There is plenty of evidence that shows our food system needs to change but we shouldn’t think this means everything is wrong – there is much that just needs to be reordered and we need to be careful not to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water'. Given that, the report does highlight the need for more evidence and data to support the recommendations.”
The full National Food Strategy report can be read at nationalfoodstrategy.org