Posts Tagged ‘food waste’

Mountains of Meat Waste Doubly Repugnant

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Food waste was once more in the news this week, thanks to a House of Lords committee report calling for action to curb this ‘morally repugnant’ issue. Supermarkets were in the firing line for ‘BOGOF’ offers, blamed by committee chairwoman, Baroness Scott, for encouraging “excess consumption” leading to food waste.

In a striking statistic, the committee reportedly described the amount of food discarded by consumers in industrialised nations as equivalent to nearly the entire level of net food production in sub-Saharan Africa.

When it comes to meat and dairy products, food waste is doubly repugnant; putting animals through the suffering of factory farming for ‘cheap’ meat, only to then throw them away.

Broiler chickenThe sad fact is that each year, Britain alone throws away the meat equivalent of 110 million animals; most are chickens, along with nearly 3 million pigs and over 200,000 cattle; that’s an awful waste of life, and the land, water and other resources that went into their production.

Yet, the biggest single area of food waste globally is feeding of grain – cereals and soya – to industrially reared farm animals. The feed is often imported from distant lands, grown on land that was formerly rich pasture or rainforest. Those animals could have been converting grass and other stuff that people can’t eat into things that we can.

Instead, they are crammed together and fed human-edible crops, returning less than a third of the calorific value of the grain they eat as meat, milk and eggs.

If all this grain destined for industrially reared animals were planted in one field, it would cover the entire land surface of the European Union. If fed directly to people, it would sustain an extra 4 billion.

So, there’s the crux of the challenge to feeding a growing human population; not that we don’t produce enough – the current food system churns out sufficient to feed 11 billion people or more.

The real reason is because we waste it; by throwing it away or feeding it to farm animals who would be better off – for all our sakes – being allowed to roam freely.

GM: Feeding people or factory farms?

Friday, March 14th, 2014

“The challenge is to get more yield from the same area”, says Sir Mark Walport, UK Government chief scientific adviser and co-chair of the Council for Science and Technology (CST). “We’re part of a global food market. Competition is likely to increase. The world is already malnourished and the population is growing,” he reportedly said, following the launch of a new CST report calling for more UK field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops and fewer EU restrictions.

The hype around GM feeding the world appears to me little more than rhetoric. GM crops often tend to be the same varieties destined for use as animal feed; more a component of the industrial farming juggernaut than a food system aimed at feeding people.

The GM debate being played out through the media again today underscores one of the biggest problems of our current world food system; it’s hang-up on production. We are constantly being told that more food needs to be produced on less land, hence the need for so-called ‘sustainable intensification’.

Industrial Farming – When More is Less

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Using human-edible crops to feed animals is “inefficient” says scientific study.

                       © iStock photo

© iStock photo

Yesterday, I found myself talking to a radio interviewer who found it hard to accept that intensive high-input, high-output rearing of farm animals is inefficient. It underscored for me how decades of production-orientated rhetoric have left some with the lasting impression that industrial agriculture is somehow a miracle.

I guess it must come as something of a shock when the argument is put – as in Farmageddon – that, far from being efficient, industrial agriculture wastes food, making it harder to feed a growing global population.

Intensive agriculture measures its success on the amount of a crop produced per hectare. That in itself is not unreasonable. However, this isn’t all of the picture, especially when a third of the world’s cereal harvest and much of its soya is fed to industrially reared animals. A staggering 70% of the available food calories are then wasted through conversion to meat and milk.

World Food Day

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation declares today as World Food Day.

With governments and international institutions casting around for solutions to feeding the ever-growing world population, the focus this year is on “healthy food systems”.

Enough food is already produced to feed the world. But the problem is that much of it is wasted. The answer is not to continually intensify animal agriculture, confining livestock to factory farms. This only makes the problem worse. It adds to the waste we already generate.

For example, for every 100 food calories of edible crops fed to livestock, just 30 calories is returned in the form of meat and milk. This is a 70% loss.

MPs call for action on food waste & factory farming

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

UK MPs have today called for action to curb food waste, over-consumption of meat and intensive farming. The Parliamentary Committee on International Development today launched a report on Global Food Security. Speaking as world leaders assemble in London to attend an international nutrition summit hosted by the UK government, Sir Malcolm Bruce, chair of the International Development Committee warned:

“There is no room for complacency about food security over the coming decades if UK consumers are to enjoy stable supplies and reasonable food prices.”

Setting out tangible measures that could have a significant impact on global food security and directly benefit UK consumers, Sir Malcolm said: “There is, for example, considerable scope for the Government to launch a national consumer campaign to reduce domestic food waste. Alongside this the Government should also set national targets to curb food waste within the UK food production and retail sectors, with clear sanctions for companies that fail to meet these targets.

With the UK never more than a few days away from a significant food shortage, UK consumers should also be encouraged over time to reduce how often they eat meat. Meanwhile, as a nation we should place a stronger focus on more sustainable extensive systems of meat production such as pasture-fed cattle, rather than on highly intensive grain-fed livestock units.”

The Committee’s warning is timely and welcome. Getting animals back on the farm, out in fields where they belong, instead of being factory farmed, where they eat food that could be fed directly to people is hugely important. Industrially reared animals worldwide consume enough grain to feed three billion people.

Eating less, but better meat from pasture-fed animals would have a significant impact on consumer health and animal welfare. At the same time, reducing the mountain of food waste in the west has to be an imperative.

To read more on Compassion’s position on feeding the world without factory farming and food waste, see our Food Sense briefing.

Farmageddon on film

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About Philip Lymbery

Philip Lymbery is Chief Executive Officer of Compassion in World Farming and co-author of Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat. He is an internationally respected authority on the impact of industrial agriculture on people, animals and the planet.