The Waste and Resources Action Plan (WRAP) has released a report on the first year results of its Meat in a Net Zero World initiative.
The initiative was launched in June 2020, bringing together 40 stakeholders across the UK meat production and supply chain to commit to increasing sustainability and reducing waste across the industry. The report illustrates progress across all of the proposed four action areas as well as new supporters in certain key sectors. The four action areas are as follows: rearing and primary production; processing; point of sale (including both the retail and hospitality sectors); and food waste at home.
WRAP states that the overall aim of the Meat in a Net Zero World initiative is to reduce meat waste and GHG emissions along the supply chain, which contribute towards existing national and global targets when carried out successfully. Through enacting the proposed changes, it is hoped that the meat industry will fall in line with the Courtauld Commitment 2030, which sets a goal to halve food waste and food system GHG emissions by 2030 in line with the UN’s sustainable development goals.
In terms of rearing, whilst farms can often be responsible for quantities of waste and greenhouse gas (GHG emissions), the report states that they can also become ‘important sinks for carbon sequestration and storage in soils and vegetation.’ As for reducing overall levels of waste, the document encourages this target area to co-opt more circular feed sources. Examples of this include optimising grass in livestock systems and making use of surplus produce from production. This could even include partnering with arable or horticultural and livestock farmers in order to reduce waste in this initial stage.
As for the second action area, the report states that processors record up to around one to two per cent of throughput ending up as ‘wasted food’ – excluding the inedible parts never intended for human consumption – though the sector has seen an average waste reduction of 30 per cent (20,000 tonnes) in the past year.
The majority of this food waste is ultimately used for renewable energy generation via anaerobic digestion or is turned into fertiliser. Whilst the amount of waste in this part of the chain is relatively low, the report still suggests measures that should be taken to reduce the amount even further. As such, meat processing businesses have committed to enacting actions within the IGD Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, which calls on businesses to set an ambitious food waste reduction target of 50 per cent.
Retail and hospitality
Action area three has two subdivisions: retail and hospitality. The report states that in 2015 the retail sector saw 10,000 tonnes of meat being discarded, which represents 0.3 per cent of reported purchases. In order to assuage this, WRAP considers several changes that could be made. The first is in packaging innovation, such as skin packs and modified atmosphere containers, in order to extend shelf life and prevent browning. The report goes on to outline the fact that the benefits of reducing waste far outweigh the resources used in additional packaging. The report also encourages continuous improvements in forecasting and stock control systems to reduce waste, as well as developing processes to divert produce either to redistribution organisations or pet food manufacturers.
With the hospitality sector, the report estimates that in 2012 approximately 50,000 tonnes of meat were discarded at hospitality and food service outlets. It recommends that the sector do the following: set ambitious food waste reduction targets, similar to the processing sector; measure food waste and report on efforts towards reduction; actively engage with staff and consumers on the reduction of food waste; set out food waste reduction plans with suppliers.
Domestic food waste
The final action area is in the domestic sphere, with the report stating that over 200,000 tonnes of meat are discarded annually, equating to approximately 10 per cent of purchases.
This is the area with the highest wastage, requiring a larger degree of targeted action.The report suggests that a large amount of the onus falls on meat packaging, recommending that suppliers invest in: maximising the shelf life available to customers; extending and clarifying ‘open life’ statements on-pack; providing a variety of packaging sizes (ie, for single person households); and encouraging customers to freeze produce.
The report also encourages the promotion of creative uses of leftovers and supports customer-facing campaigns, such as Love Food Hate Waste’s Food Waste Action Week, to increase awareness of the issue. WRAP estimates that if these changes are implemented, then domestic meat waste could be reduced by around 15,000 tonnes per year.
Karen Fisher, Head of Climate Action Strategy, WRAP, commented: “Whilst the call to eat less meat is widely acknowledged, we recognise that there is still a role for meat produced to high welfare, climate and environmental standards in our diet. It is, therefore, critical that the industry works together towards these aims.
“Against the backdrop of the unprecedented challenges that the Covid crisis has presented, the industry has taken some important steps forward. The momentum is building, the need for change is widely recognised and this is reflected in the number of new businesses and wider organisations joining this commitment – including more representatives from the hospitality and food service sector and the feed industry, amongst others.”
Victoria Prentis, Food Minister: “I am pleased that so many organisations have joined WRAP to advance the ambitious goal of ensuring that the UK meat industry is one of the most sustainable in the world.
“Our food is amongst the very best globally, and today’s Annual Progress Summary clearly shows meaningful progress to measure and actively reduce industry’s impact on the environment, on all stages of production – from rearing animals to reducing meat waste in our homes.
“We all have a part to play. I encourage more companies to sign up, and urge every one of us to understand what we can do in our everyday lives to make a difference.”