UPDATE - 10:43am 26/07/2021 - If you wish to add your name to the letter, please see here 

National Food Strategy - Open letter from food industry members to Henry Dimbleby

 

LONDON, July 23rd, 2021

 

Dear Mr Dimbleby,

We want to start by saying that The National Food Strategy is a hugely exciting report offering a monumental opportunity for our country. You have fully recognised where and how our food system is broken, and offered many innovative and inspiring recommendations which we hope the government will put into action.

We are, however, disappointed by your support for manufactured meat alternatives and recommendation of £125 million investment in this already booming sector. Instead, we propose a greater emphasis on minimally processed wholefoods such as grains and pulses for the following reasons:

Environmental benefits of legume crops in our farming system.

  • Studies have shown that we have only 60 harvests left before our topsoil has completely degraded. One of the key ways to prevent this is through the planting of cover crops like legumes.[1]
  • A contributing factor to degradation of soil is the use of nitrate-based fertilizers. The planting of legumes reduces the need for chemical fertilizers through their nature of being “nitrate-fixers”, pulling nitrogen from the air and replenishing the soil naturally[2].
  • This is a major objective of the National Food Strategy and support for this market, rather than meat alternatives, would see huge benefits to our farming system.

Diversification for farmers and the encouragement of regenerative agriculture.

  • The report shows awareness in offering farmers a chance to diversify from livestock farming as well as encouraging regenerative agriculture through spotlighting farmers such as Craig Livingstone[3]
  • A core part of regenerative agricultural methods is the planting of cover crops such as legumes, which Mr Livingstone mentions himself in the report.[4]
  • Encouraging this approach in creating a market for the harvests of these cover crops is essential for successful transitions to regenerative agriculture.

We discourage the government from investing in the alternative protein sector for the following reasons:

Not all consumers want ultra-processed fake meat alternatives:

  • November 2020 - 58% of non-users of meat replacements would prefer to substitute meat with “whole plant foods” rather than use substitutes. 61% of non-users believe that they are too processed.[5] 
  • November 2019 - 64% of those who have reduced their consumption of meat would prefer to substitute meat with other ingredients such as cheese or pulses.[6]

Manufactured meat-alternatives are often highly-processed and are precisely what the report is tackling to fight obesity. Meat-free foods and alternative proteins are ultra-processed and often worse than meat:

  • Only 6% of launches were fortified with vitamins/minerals in 2019 and over January-October 2020[7]
  • Long-term studies are needed to assess the health implications of eating fake meats[8]
  • Professor Tim Spector “Whether your sausage roll is made from a pig or Quorn, or your burger from beef or soy, they’re all highly processed and high in calories, saturated fat and salt.”[9]
  • Vegan and vegetarian foods are marketed as healthier than they in fact are, and some, such as vegan fish fingers, contain up to 40 artificial ingredients.[10]

Even without the government support proposed by the strategy. The sector the report proposes investment in an already booming sector:

  • For the alternative protein sector: “Volume sales are predicted to increase by 29.6% over 2020-25 to 92 million kg, while values are forecast to grow by 50.1% over the next five years to hit £824 million.”[11]
  • In 2021, British Brand THIS has already had 11million investment[12]. British Brand “The Meatless Farm” has raised £38 million over the last 3 years[13] and cultured meat company Ivy Farm is set to raise over £40 million this year[14]. All of these British businesses are supported by market forces, and don’t need the government's further help.

We propose some of the following amendments to the strategy:

  • For the healthy eating support programme for lower income households “Community Eatwell” ensure that this includes legumes in the suggested “fruit and vegetables” made prescribable by GPs.
  • Rather than the proposed investment in the meat alternatives sector, they propose investment in the bean and pulse sector, specifically for those grown on UK soils.

There is still time to influence government policy and redirect funds, please listen to us as we know the politicians will listen to you.

 

Signed, the following members of the food industry:

 

Amelia Christie-Miller, Founder, Bold Bean Co (Leader of the campaign)

Jenny Chandler, Cookbook author

Arthur Potts-Dawson, Chef

Abi Glencross, Co-founder, The Sustainable Food Story

Gill Meller, Chef and author

Doug McMaster, Founder and chef, Silo

Lucy Carr-Ellison, Founder and chef, Tart London

Zoe Oates, Co-founder, The Honest Bean Co

Josiah Meldrum, Co-founder, Hodmedod

Hannah McCollum, Founder, Chic-p

Glen Burrows, Co-founder, The Ethical Butcher 

Dr Shireen Kassam, Founder, Plant Based Health Professionals

Peter Greig, Co-founder, Pipers Farm

Henri Greig, Co-founder, Pipers Farm

Abby Allen, Sales & Marketing Director, Pipers Farm

Lucy Mee, Co-Founder, Bill or Beak, Ink fish bar and On The Table Co

 

For media inquiries please contact Amelia Christie-Miller, Leader of the “Beans Over Burgers” Campaign:

  • Email: amelia@boldbeanco.com

 

 


[3] The National Food Strategy “The Plan”, pg. 104

[4] The National Food Strategy “The Plan”, pg. 104

[5] See Meat-free foods - UK - November 2020, Mintel Appendix 1

[6]  See Meat-free foods - UK - November 2019, Mintel, Appendix 2

[7] Ibid

[8] See Meat Alternatives by Nuffield Council of Bioethics, Appendix 3

[9]Quoted in Appendix 4

[10]Ibid

[11]  See Meat-free foods - UK - November 2020, Mintel Appendix 1

[12] See Private Equity Wire - Appendix 5

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