UK supermarkets accused of reneging on sustainability commitments by ‘bombarding’ shoppers with meat

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3 min read
AUTHOR: Molly Long
Woman chooses meat in the store

Retailers are failing on their climate commitments by encouraging customers to buy more cheap meat to boost sales, according to the charity Eating Better. 

A report conducted on behalf of the organisation uncovered the Big Four UK supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons – are using multi-buys, price reductions or other offers in order to sell more meat. 

This is despite having made pledges to promote more sustainable eating to improve diets and tackle the climate crisis. 

Data shows meat has a negative effect on the environment. The UN estimates livestock emissions account for 14% of all man-made greenhouse gases, with beef production being the worst offender. 

Deforestation to make way for cattle farming land, the growing of feed and excessive water usage also all negatively impact the environment. 

Eating Better’s study examined a five-week period from August to September 2021, analysing promotion for meat products on retailers’ websites. 

Research found Morrisons and Asda were the worst offenders. The two supermarkets ran “considerably more” promotions on meat and fish than Sainsbury’s or Tesco, Eating Better says. 

The total number of promotions run by each supermarket over a five-week period were: 

  • Asda: 1,352
  • Morrisons: 1,490
  • Sainsbury’s: 933
  • Tesco: 948

The study also noted the different ways supermarkets encouraged meat consumption – Asda and Morrisons used multi-buys most often to promote meat, while Sainsbury’s preferred price reduction. 

Simon Billing, executive director of Eating Better, says: “This is further evidence that supermarkets are putting profit before population health and that of the planet, by bombarding us with BOGOF burgers, sausages and cheap chicken of unknown origin. And that’s despite Tesco and Sainsbury’s, in particular, having climate commitments to promote sustainable eating.”

Billing also says that in light of rapidly rising inflation, “We need to make it easier for everyone to eat healthier and more sustainably with less of all meat and more veg.”

Eating Better says consumers in the country eat “more meat than we need”, with consumption nearly double the global average. 

The National Food Strategy, which was published last year, recommended a 30% cut in meat consumption over the next decade. 

Billing says this will be difficult to achieve, especially given the results of this latest report. He says: “Supermarkets need to come to terms, and quite quickly, with selling less meat and instead, promote more veg and healthy plant proteins, which are better for us, our pocket and the planet. 

“We urge the government to get behind this and extend legislation, expected later in the year, to ban all meat promotions.”

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