RECENT media campaigns by major supermarkets have been slammed for misinforming consumers and undermining the UK livestock sector of what foods are healthiest and safest for the planet.

The National Sheep Association said it believed that ‘misleading’ promotional advertising will result in misinformed food choices, creating confusion and undermining the public understanding of sustainable food production systems employed in the UK.

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Recent promotional literature from Waitrose has suggested that customers can reduce their carbon footprint by eating pork rather than lamb, and Sainsburys is encouraging customers to make high quality British red meat go further, by replacing it with lentils.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “People are being bombarded with all sorts of messaging about how diets can help combat climate change and there is no doubt that the data being used to substantiate these messages is flawed.

"It’s not full life cycle, it’s not holistic in its structure, and as the National Food Strategy report points out, the overseas part of the carbon footprint often isn’t taken into account,” he explained.

“It is completely misleading not to reflect the true picture, we must be considering broader sustainability metrics.”

The NSA this week called upon leading supermarkets and stakeholders to be very clear with their commentary and bring more logic, evidence and reason to the debate on food, especially red meat.

It pointed out that, globally, while livestock might contribute to 14% of all greenhouse gases (GHG), in the UK GHG from livestock production totalled just 6%, making it one of the smallest contributors and proved that our approach to livestock production was very different to ‘world agriculture’.

NSA pointed out that transport had the highest emissions at 27%, with energy supply at 21%, business at 17%, the residential sector at 15% and across all agricultural sectors, 10%.

It said that the adoption of regenerative agriculture –which in many instances is a modern form of traditional farming practices – with rotational cropping, incorporating grass breaks and a harmonic balance with nature, supported a conventional and a holistic approach to delivering a healthy planet and a healthy food system.

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Also, there were many examples of where sheep play a central role, added Mr Stocker.

His organisation believed there were also other key areas to address, where major retailers can support a common goal, such as reducing food-waste – which globally accounts for 10% of GHG.

It also said that reducing the consumption of too many hyper-processed foods and support for those suffering a lack of vital micronutrients in their diet; many of which are only available in sufficient quantities through the consumption of foods from animal origin, should also be promoted

Mr Stocker continued: “Ensuring food and farming plays its part in climate change through diets and farming practices is right and proper - but we absolutely need to make sure that people are making properly informed decisions with more accurate data, and we also need all our industries to play their part.

"Agriculture and food can be part of the solution – but it mustn’t be the scapegoat,” he said.