Red meat a choice for consumers not scientists

Red meat consumption a decision for consumers

Stock and Land Beef
Your choice: The IPCC says its for consumers to decide how much red meat is in their diet.

Your choice: The IPCC says its for consumers to decide how much red meat is in their diet.

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The IPCC has declared that its a consumer choice to eat red meat, as Australian cattle producers defend their emissions record.

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Australia's cattle industry has defended its efforts to cut greenhouse gases, as the international body which assesses climate science has made it clear red meat consumption is a choice for consumers, not scientists.

Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its special report on climate change and land use.

The report covered a range of topics including food wastage and crop and livestock management but it was the findings on dietary habits that has grabbed global headlines.

The reports states, in part, that:

Balanced diets, featuring 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 greenhouse gas emission systems, present major opportunities for adaptation and mitigation.

That has helped generate headlines like "The Climate Crisis Is Moving Us Toward a Food Catastrophe", and "Meat consumption and deforestation is fuelling the climate crisis".

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On Twitter the #IPCC tag has attracted plenty of interest, and on Monday's public hearing into the bill to amend the Criminal Code relating to trespassing on farms, the co-founder of the Animal Protectors Alliance Robyn Soxsmith used the report to back her groups opposition to red meat production.

""What we see as the future of the industry is with plant based meat," she said.

"The report to the UN that has just been handed down supports those views."

No recommendations

But one of the report's authors Jim Skea told a media conference in Geneva its purpose was not to influence consumers.

"We don't do recommendations. We do the the evidence for the policymakers," he said.

"What we have pointed out on the basis of the scientific evidence is that there are certain types of diets that have a lower carbon footprint."

We don't do recommendations. We do the the evidence for the policymakers - Jim Skea, IPCC

IPPC report author and working group co-chair Jim Skea.

IPPC report author and working group co-chair Jim Skea.

Australia's Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said the government would not be pushing for a change in the national diet.

"We're not going to tell people what they should be eating," he told the ABC.

The President of the Cattle Council of Australia Tony Hegarty responded by highlighting that since 1981, the beef industry had reduced emission intensity by 14 per cent and reduced emissions due to land use change, by 42 per cent.

"The industry is working hard to meet its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030," he said.

"Red meat will continue to play a vital role in meeting global needs in terms of the demand for dietary protein.

"It can be difficult to communicate those credentials, but we're committed to getting the message across effectively."

Mr Skea said getting an accurate global figure on emissions generated by agriculture was not possible.

The cattle industry has defended its efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The cattle industry has defended its efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"At the moment we don't have inventories that truly reflect [the emission levels in] many countries," he said.

"I think the big challenge is to do it on a better evidence base, so that farmers are informed about the actual production systems that they use."

Food waste

The report also found that around a third of the food produced globally was lost or wasted.

National Farmers' Federation President Fiona Simson was not surprised by the finding.

"There are tonnes and tonnes of food that is wasted at the point of production," she told ABC News.

"Sometimes it's about misshapen vegies, carrots that look weird or those sorts of things, but also sometimes we just haven't got the labour to pick the produce in the fields."

One of the report's authors Debra Roberts said no farming sector had been singled out.

"There is no single silver bullet," she said.

"It really calls on us to think across the entire food production chain.

"The way we handle it, and how there may be inequities across that system."

The story Red meat a choice for consumers not scientists first appeared on Farm Online.

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