The NFU has sent a letter of complaint to Channel 4 and the producers of ‘The Big British Beef Battle’, aired on December 1, 2023.

The programme called on the British public to reduce their beef consumption as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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It made various claims about livestock systems that were based on research on farming in the US, South America and Australia, where farming practices differ widely from those in the UK – where vastly more sustainable practices are carried out. A number of basic factual errors about cattle were also made during the programme.

Presenter and paralympic athlete Ade Adepitan called on the British public to reduce their consumption of beef during the show and to eat more chicken instead to ‘help the environment'.

However, farmers hit back against the show for its portrayal of British farming and its attempts to stop people from eating beef.

In response, the NFU has sent a letter of complaint to the producers of the programme and has called on Channel 4 to involve the farming industry in the development of any future productions that are focused on food production.

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In its letter to Channel 4, signed off by NFU deputy president, Tom Bradshaw, NFU said: "In our view, The Big British Beef Battle amounted to an onslaught on British farming – which produces beef to some of the highest animal welfare and environmental standards in the world – and yet justified that onslaught with facts predominantly relating to farming in other countries.

"Research for this programme appears to be alarmingly lacking, repeatedly making claims about livestock systems and methods without sufficient clarification that they don’t happen in the UK.

"We struggle to see how this programme adheres to the standards broadcasters in the UK must follow.

"I understand that Channel 4 wants to delve into provocative debates, but it must do so in a way that is accurate and informed by thorough research which is relevant to its audience.

"To help achieve this, I ask if Channel 4 is planning any other programmes focused on food production, farming systems or consumption of food in the UK that producers reach out to the NFU in the initial research stages."

NFU explained: "All year round, we look to highlight the high levels of animal welfare and the sustainability of producing British meat to the public.

"Prior to Channel 4 airing their programme on December 1, we shared a number of positive livestock posts to counter the negative messaging from the show.

"We joined forces with AHDB to cover topics such as: Why British red meat is so important, how grazing cattle can encourage birds and how beef is an iron source."