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Whether your customers are fully embracing flexitarianism, dipping their toes in with Meat-Free Mondays or are just keen to support their local farmers, sourcing meat and cheese that has a minimal impact on the environment is an important way to cater to today’s ethical shoppers.
With news that on the horizon, thanks to post-Brexit trade deals, British stores could be stocked with “dangerous” bacon and ham, cured in the US via a practice that the European Commission has outlawed due to associated risks of bowel cancer, it is critical that fine food retailers shout about the unique selling points of British meat and dairy for conscious consumers.
Glen Burrows, marketing director at The Ethical Butcher, says transparency has become a big issue for consumers today. “People are starting to understand that there are different methods of agriculture that can produce our food, that range from being incredibly damaging to being incredibly healing. And I think the message of how food is produced is very, very lost, usually because there are so many steps in between the field and the fork,” he tells Speciality Food.
“The simpler the food, the easier it is to maintain that level of transparency,” he says. This is why meat and dairy products are easier to trace, Glen says, and thus offer retailers an opportunity to focus in on these areas to source ethically produced and traceable options.
Sourcing local meat also helps to protect Britain’s rural economies – something that more and more consumers are keen to do. Oliver Nohl-Oser, founder of James Alexander Fine Foods says that sourcing locally in Cumbria is important for his business, because it means he is “protecting vital livelihoods, paying the right price for my meat, and protecting the rural economy up here”.
“We buy direct from auction market, and the money goes directly to the local farmers rather than to a mass global meat supplier. A prime example of this is the Herwick lamb we are about to source for Easter meat boxes,” Oliver tells Speciality Food.
Emissions data also shows just how big a role producers and retailers can play in making the food industry more sustainable. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, around 21-37% of all greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to the food system, and the Committee on Climate Change estimates that a 50% reduction in the UK’s beef, lamb and dairy consumption by 2050 could result in a 37% reduction in the total UK agricultural sector’s domestic emissions by 2050.
Eating Better, a group working to push the UK towards ‘less and better’ meat and dairy consumption, recently produced a resource to help retailers source climate and nature friendly meat and dairy products. The Sourcing Better framework offers a pathway for ‘better’ food, focusing on eight key impact areas: animal welfare, biodiversity, soil health, antibiotic use, emissions, local pollution, water scarcity and land use change.
“We’re calling for transformational change for all meat sold, while recognising the challenges this presents to the retail and food service industries,” says Simon Billing, executive director of Eating Better. “Our aim is to support retailers and restaurants on the journey to sourcing better, and this guide is a first step to achieving that, and, ultimately, to making less climate and nature friendly meat, available and affordable to all.”
The guide suggests a three-step process to better procurement, with the goal of moving beyond the current baseline and standards’ certifications, to a system which favours the highest animal welfare and the lowest impact on the environment.
Fine food retailers are experts in quality food, so stocking the best meat and dairy products will no doubt already be high on their lists. By not only sourcing the best products, but also educating customers about why these options are worth their investment, speciality retailers will have the edge with conscious consumers.