Commissioned by the UK government to map out the measures needed to make diets greener, the Sustainable Consumption Commission (SCS) identified reduced dairy consumption as one of the most effective ways of improving the sustainability of our diets.
The “Setting the Table” report also identified dairy as one of several “hot spot” foods, for which more research is needed to determine more sustainable modes of production.
Dairy UK criticised the SCS assessment saying that it employed a definition of sustainability that is too narrow, and failed to account for important nutritional and economic points.
As well as a being a very efficient source of nutrition, and therefore a key contributor to the health of the nation, Dairy UK argued that dairy products are vital to the health of the economy. According to the trade body, production and processing of milk adds around £8bn to the UK economy every year and employs more than 70,000 people.
Dairy UK also defended the environmental credentials of the industry, highlighting how grazing land is a major store of carbon. It also mentioned recent and ongoing green improvements, including a 17 per cent drop in methane emissions from cattle since 1990.
How much influence the SCS report will have is unclear but a spokesperson for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it would be read with interest.
Regarding the specific recommendation that the FSA Eatwell Plate should “better align nutrition advice with key existing environmental evidence”, the FSA spokesperson said the Agency would consider the proposal. “We will consider the role of the eatwell plate through our IAC project work and whether such messages around sustainability could be strengthened.”
The World Wildlife Fund, meanwhile, was critical of the current FSA attitude to sustainability.
Mark Driscoll, WWF-UK lead for the One Planet Food programme said: “To date, the Agency has failed to accept sustainability as a dietary issue: this is evident in its 5-year plan, published a few days ago, which mentions sustainability just once. This attitude has to change – and quickly.”