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British pig sector ready to play its part in delivering National Food Strategy

15th Jul 2021 / By Alistair Driver

The British pig sector is well positioned to play a positive role in helping to deliver the new National Food Strategy’s objectives of healthy food, net zero emissions and educating the next generation, according to the NPA.

Henry Dimbleby 2021NPA chief executive Zoe Davies welcomed elements of Henry Dimbleby’s landmark strategy  report, which calls for fundamental reforms of the UK’s food industry to address concerns over the impact of poor diets on the nation’s health and farming’s impact on the environment.

By 2032, it suggests, fruit and vegetable consumption will have to increase by 30%, and fibre consumption by 50%, while consumption of food high in saturated fat, salt and sugar will have to go down by 25% and meat consumption by 30%.

You can view the report HERE

Headline recommendations include:

  • A sugar and salt reformulation tax, with some of the revenue to help get fresh fruit and vegetables to low income families.
  • Launch a new ‘Eat and Learn’ initiative for schools.
  • Invest £1 billion in innovation to create a better food system, including research on new agro-ecological techniques and £50m should towards building a commercial ‘cluster’ for entrepreneurs and scientists working on alternative proteins.
  • Strengthen government procurement rules to ensure that taxpayer money is spent on healthy and sustainable food.
  • Introduce a Good Food Bill before the end of the current parliamentary term in 2024, which includes expanding the role of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to cover healthy and sustainable food as well as food safety.
  • Define minimum standards for trade, and a mechanism for protecting them.

There are few direct references to the pig sector, other than to the impact of global intensive pig production on animal health and antibiotic use, illustrated by a picture of a high rise piggery in China, but there was at least recognition that pig production is generally very efficient.

The overarching themes within the report could however have a big impact on the UK pig sector if they are adopted by the Government, which has promised to issue its response within six months.

“Although we certainly don’t agree with everything in there, especially the passing misleading comments about pig production, which aren’t relevant to the UK, this report is well written, forward thinking and challenging.

“There is a huge amount in there to consider and applaud, particularly when it comes to the healthy eating agenda, the drive towards net zero emissions and educating the next generation about food, something the NPA is passionate about.

“I genuinely believe the pig sector is well-positioned to deliver on all of these fronts and we really look forward to being part of the solution.”

Meat consumption

Moving onto some of the specific elements of the report, Zoe said it was important that the Government does not try to reduce meat consumption through punitive measures, such as taxes, which would be met with strong resistance from consumers and industry.

She welcomed the recommendations on public procurement, which, as long as they specify British food, including pork, could open up opportunities for producers.

The NPA would ‘wholeheartedly support’ the ‘Eat and Learn’ initiative to improve education on food and cooking skills from nursery to A-level, she added.

Food standards

Importantly, given the strategy’s drive to further raise UK food standards, the report outlines a clear policy for Government to ensure these standards are not undermined by cheaper imports produce to lower standards under future trade deals.

“We fully support the strategy’s call for the Government, as a matter of urgency, to draw up a list of core minimum standards, which it will defend in any future trade deals, and set out mechanisms it intends to use to protect these standards,” Zoe said.

“It is vital that when the Government issues its response, it does exactly this to ensure our high standards are protected, and we will continue to make this point as more trade deals are negotiated.”