Food production caused 19% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, a third of which could be attributed to red meat and dairy, WWF claimed in a major report to be released shortly. Based on 1990 levels, WWF called for an eight-megatonne reduction in CO2 by 2020 and 32.7 megatonnes by 2050.
While the first target could be met through improvements in industry infrastructure and production practices, the 2050 target would require a reduction in UK consumption of meat and dairy, said WWF.
It called on retailers to make a number of key commitments: to drive a transformation to low-carbon, sustainable farming through their supply chains; create portion awareness and labelling for red meat, dairy and their substitutes; create viable alternatives to meat and dairy; increase space and promotion for dairy free and meat free; drive an uptake in vegetable consumption; and raise the bar on operational sustainability.
"Retailers have a strong influence on how customers cook and in helping them experiment with new recipes and we would like to see this focused on vegetable-based options," the report said. This could involve an increased focus on 5-a-Day, a wider range of veg-based ready meals and the promotion of recipes based on veg showing that meals are not 'naked' without dairy or meat.
The government also had a crucial role to play in bringing clarity to the issue by defining what constituted an environmentally-friendly diet or "Live Well plate", said WWF. It should also include farming in national greenhouse gas reduction targets and re-examine food taxation.
"We believe the complexity and interdependency of today's issues and the speed with which change must be affected will require a new form of collaboration in the food market, with a greater degree of open-mindedness and creativity than at any point in the past," it said.