For a prosperous environment, everyone must be somewhat prosperous too

If environmental improvement is the Government’s priority, as set out in a recent review of their ‘ambitious’ environment plan, then it is fair to say that Britain’s poultry meat producers do not need a roadmap, they need room and support to invest. With the right infrastructure, BPC members feeding the nation can both adapt to and combat the effects of climate change. But once again, our food security and our climate change objectives lack some much-needed coherence.

From a food production standpoint, we struggle to understand Government’s environment agenda; specifically whether their environment plan should address the climate emergency head-on or tackle the impacts of climate change. Really it should be both, but environment experts say it does neither. Five years into a 25 year “blueprint” supposed to set out how ministers intend to clean up air and water, boost nature and reduce waste and the UK is not on track to meet targets. Meanwhile, all we get are warm words wrapped in strategies that just aren’t delivering.

A pledge to work with farmers to produce world class standards of food whilst protecting the land they rely on is by no means a bad thing. But simply aiming for ‘more nature’ over the next 25 years, rather than using this plan as an opportunity to explore depleting resources, find exactly where the costs lie, investigate the impact on industries like our own that are both adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change, and then prioritise solutions to carve the path forward is not ‘ambitious.’ It’s meta-environmental theatre, where the goal is to plant trees not grow them.

Of concern to us is so little acknowledgement of food production’s vital role in supporting the environment. Caveating food with ‘sustainable’ then quickly abandoning it, the plan reads like an abrogation of Government’s responsibility to ensure “farmers have what they need” to produce quality and affordable food that connects the reciprocal goods of people and planet. We are left to guess where poultry production, and our food security ambitions more widely, sit in Government’s thinking.

For a prosperous environment, everyone must be somewhat prosperous too: it is a positive feedback loop. There are only so many emissions that the earth can offset naturally so any blueprint for environmental improvement must go further than ‘more nature.’ Making investments in environmental resilience requires making investments resilient in themselves, and there is no better place to start than with climate-resilient, low-carbon poultry meat production.

A crucial area where climate change presents opportunity for the UK can be in Government tackling the social inequalities that define it, a space where poultry meat producers can leverage their influence as producers of safe, affordable, nutritious food. You cannot talk about improving the environment without ensuring food for all. In doing so, you acknowledge the cycle that climate change directly affects our food security, which then undermines our efforts to be climate resilient, from production right through to the coping strategies of our most vulnerable.

The real power of ‘more nature,’ and the potential we see within the environment plan, is access. A plan for improving the environment should be about building the political will for a liveable climate. A liveable climate is one where there is room for measures that promote agricultural development to improve availability, access, and consumption of nutritious poultry meat by ensuring a healthy environment, with Government interventions that support food security directly.

First published in Meat Management magazine.