On 19 June the House of Lords Energy and Environment Sub-Committee debated whether the EU’s proposal to ban the use of words associated with meat like ‘sausage’ and ‘burger’ to describe vegan and vegetarian products is in the interest of UK consumers. Following the debate, Verdict Foodservice spoke to committee chair Teverson about the future of farming and the meat industry.
In a wide-ranging interview, Lord Teverson discussed what the proposal would mean going forward, how the farming industry is being affected by the growing vegan and vegetarian trends, and what the future holds for the farming and the meat industry.
Rosie Lintott: How will the farming industry be affected by the EU’s proposal?
Lord Teverson: “I suspect there is a bit of defensiveness in there in terms of the agricultural industry especially on the animal side.
“I think behind this is a particular concern within parts of the farming industry obviously the meat industry, that their sector is being squeezed and there’s going to be financial pressure if these trends towards veganism and vegetarianism continue strongly.
“I think they find it very difficult on most of these products to find that there would be confusion, so I think there can be a concern and a fear there but more in continental Europe than in the UK. In the UK, farming has become much more attuned to societal trends.”
RL: Is this one of the main concerns for the farming industry?
LT: “At the moment the farming industry is most concerned about understanding what its future is in terms of trade with Europe, whether it’s going to be cheap food coming in from the rest of the world post Brexit. All of that is clearly higher up their concerns than this particular one, but I can imagine having dealt with the farming sector in the past that there are certain people concerned about this.
“The thing I think we sometimes forget is farmers are very proud of what they do and we shouldn’t underestimate that. It’s beyond the normal commercial attitude, perhaps, that we have in broader business and so in a way this move to substitute vegetarian protein for actual meat is seen as something that’s devaluing what they’re doing, as well as a threat and I think we should understand that sometimes, not with every producer but certain sectors in the farming industry.”
RL: Do you think this proposal will go through?
LT: “I think we will have to see because there will be a whole new regime in Europe, but I suspect it will not die. I suspect that the agricultural committee of the European Parliament will bring this back up again. I don’t think the whole thing will be delivered as the agricultural committee would want, but I suspect there might be some areas when it comes down to pure cuts of meat descriptions, but maybe there might be some things that are tightened in terms of regulation and visual presentation.”
RL: What do you think the future holds for the meat industry and farming?
LT: “The farming industry is at a crossroads at the moment in terms of a whole load of issues. In terms of the veganism and vegetarianism, I think it’s increased quite considerably and will continue to increase. I think red meat consumption will continue to go down for a while, white meat maybe less so, but there will be more and more focus on this area particularly from the climate change side.
“Now that we have a zero carbon Britain target for 2050, the agricultural industry is going to have to play a part of that, and the climate change committee report recently released did particularly focus on dairy and meat production in terms of something is going to have to change. In terms of cultural habit, let alone any of the health issues, in order to meet those sorts of targets, it’s going to stay on the agenda, absolutely.”