Farmers and butchers reject call to make meat 'occasional treat'
A report suggesting eating meat should be an occasional treat has been met with derision in the Westcountry.
Farmers leaders hit back at the findings of the Government's International Development Committee, while those on the consumer frontline said it defied common sense.
Butcher David Hampson, joint owner of Hampsons of Hayle in West Cornwall, said meat was a vital part of the diet.
"It is an important source of vitamins and minerals," he said.
"As with everything, I do think there should be moderation.
"But at the same time the Government should be more supportive of the industry.
"Meat is part of a balanced diet and British meat is the best in the world."
Melanie Squires, regional director of the NFU in he South West, said meat was good nutritionally and its production protected landscapes.
"The NFU believes that eating lean red meat has an important role to play in a healthy balanced diet," she said.
"It's a traditional part of the British lifestyle and is enjoyed by most of the population.
"The scientific and medical communities also agree that red meat is beneficial to health and provides the body with a ready source of essential vitamins and minerals."
Mrs Squires said cutting out red meat altogether can have adverse health effects, particularly for those at risk of having a poor iron intake.
She added that livestock cultivation was good for the environment and played a "crucial role in sustaining some of the nation's most beautiful and treasured landscapes," as well as being the bedrock of rural communities.
She pointed to the fact that almost 60% of farming's uplands, which is dominated by livestock, is designated as National Park or areas of natural beauty.
Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of the UK's agricultural area is made up of grassland.
"The reality is that if red meat consumption falls dramatically there would be a very real risk of the most valuable environmental assets being abandoned, and we would see lowland grasslands switched to arable production," she said.
The report issued by MPs was prompted by fears over global food security and amid concerns that Britain was never far from a food shortage crisis.
It calls for action to curb wastage after estimates that around a third of food produce globally is discarded.
However, the report also concludes that the rate of increase in global meat consumption is unsustainable with a long term focus on pasture fed rather than grain fed livestock and "meat promoted as an occasional product rather than an everyday staple".
Your say on the meat debate
“People will make their own decisions about what to buy. You can try to educate them, but they will mostly still carry on in the same way. I’ve lived here for 60 years and used to work on a farm so I know how important it is for people to support local producers.”
Lesley Tree, 79
“I eat meat twice a day and don’t intend to change. Lots of people are buying big packets of meat because it is often cheaper to buy in bulk. Some people listen to health advice and don’t eat too much red meat, for example.”
Nick Spinoulas, 18
“More people could buy fish from local fishmongers in Devon and Cornwall. The suppliers need people to support them. But there are a lot of farms in the Westcountry and it’s important to support them by buying meat locally.”
John May, 18
“I’ve never been much of a meat eater. I only buy chicken now, even though I used to buy other meats. Plenty of other people buy a lot more meat and won’t want to cut back unless they can’t afford it.”
Pauline Long, 80
“Beef and lamb are very expensive. So many people are buying cheaper cuts of meat or can only afford to have meat once a week.”
Margaret Hill, 76
Interviews conducted on High Street, Exeter, by Adam Walmesley