The 21-page Eating Better report, Principles for eating meat and dairy more sustainably: the ‘less and better’ approach, urges consumers to choose better and eat less of certain products, for not only their own health, but also the planet.
The reports states consumers should eat less cheese, and moderate their milk consumption.
Report “cherry picks” statistics
Dairy UK said the environmental and nutritional contribution of the dairy sector has been “wilfully misrepresented,” by the report urging reduced consumption of dairy products.
Dr Judith Bryans, chief executive of Dairy UK said, “We totally reject any assertion that dairy products are not environmentally sustainable.
“The dairy sector helps to feed the UK with efficient, predominantly grass-based milk production, high animal welfare standards, safe and nutritious foods.”
Bryans said the report criticizes UK dairy from a global perspective and cherry picks statistics that paint a false picture of the UK industry.
“Advising consumers to cut their dairy intake is wrong and unhelpful in helping the nation meet its nutritional requirements. The authors are also behind the times on global dairy, which is making strides forward on the environmental front and has even signed a Declaration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.”
‘Reducing environmental footprint’
The report states that, “owing to the relatively high water content of milk, emissions associated with one kilo of milk are low relative to those from the same amount of beef. However, milk also contains less energy and protein per gram. On the other hand, cheese has a relatively high GHG intensity (8-10 times that of milk, depending on the hardness of the cheese meaning that cheese can have a higher impact (per kilogram) than pork.”
Bryans said, “Milk production only accounts for 2.8% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions. The sector is fully committed to reducing its environmental footprint and has achieved a 24% decline in UK dairy greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2015.”
Bryans said the report fails to recognize dairy products are nutrient-rich foods and excellent sources of high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals such as calcium, vitamin B12 and iodine and form part of a healthy balanced diet.
Support for report
However, Dominika Piasecka, spokesperson for The Vegan Society, told DairyReporter she supported the report, and said, “What we eat has a huge impact on climate change and the natural environment. Animal agriculture is inherently unsustainable and wasteful because for every 100 calories fed to animals, we receive back only 12 calories by consuming their flesh and milk.
“The dairy industry, far from its perception as an innocent by-product, is every bit as environmentally destructive as meat. Dairy alone accounts for about 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, over half of which is methane - a highly potent greenhouse gas emitted by cows.
“The Vegan Society is pleased that the new Eating Better report encourages adopting a predominantly plant-based diet, however we must remember that veganism remains the best choice for those who want to live ethical, sustainable and healthy lives.”
Eating Better is an alliance of more than 50 civil society organizations working to build consensus and develop collaborative practical approaches to engage policy makers, food businesses and civil society to catalyze shifts towards healthy and sustainable eating patterns.
The group includes such organizations as Compassion in World Farming, RSPB, The Association of UK Dietitians, WWF, Food Ethics Council, Greenpeace and Oxfam.