Myths about beef and dairy production are driving sales of alternative products, but do not threaten the long-term success of the industry. However, work needs to be done to share the positive stories, delegates heard in the opening sessions of the BCBC conference.
“The beef industry is destroying the planet!” said Lucianne Allen, sales and marketing director for Aubrey Allen. “Experts in agriculture, leading scientists and top nutritionists all agree that statement is the biggest lie of our century.
“This lie is fired up, fuelled and even funded by people who don’t care about the soil and land as you all do, but whose vision statement is the destruction of the meat industry and to make as much cash so they can be listed in the FTSE 100.
“These businesses have promulgated their own lies that sell – they don’t have stories to compel. We have stories to compel, but at the moment we are not using those stories and they are winning.”
A popular plant-based ‘burger’ product contains 22 ingredients sourced from three continents, she said. “Two of those ingredients are controversial to health. Set against grass-fed burger with one ingredient – grass-fed beef – reared on pastures that can and should only be grazed. Farming in that way, where cattle are part of the solution, not the problem. Not only that, but including 6oz of pure nourishment.”
Plant-based manufacturers were currently winning ‘the war against meat’ she said. However, meat is a valuable source of nutrition and people still want to eat it. “It’s within their very DNA, and it’s what’s been happening since time begun. And the plant-based alternative vegan campaigners know that secret and they use it much better than we do.” The use of words like ‘bacon’ and ‘burgers’ with plant-based alternatives was wrong, she said. “This is our language isn’t it? It belongs to us.
“I believe we’ve got the expertise and the passion. The only thing we are lacking is the unity. Together we are a multi-billion-pound industry. What can we do to get our stories out there?”
More than 99% of households in Great Britain purchase ‘real’ dairy products, said Dr Judith Bryans, CEO of Dairy UK. Opening the conference’s Dairy Day, she said: “Primarily UK consumers buy for taste, whatever age or demographic group you look at, but of course we have a great nutritional story in our background too.
“What you do really makes a difference. It’s a great tasty package that you produce, but it is also great for people’s daily nutrition and health. There are an awful lot of people in the UK who wouldn’t meet their daily nutrition intakes without dairy and we shouldn’t forget that.”
The UK Dairy Roadmap outlines the industry’s commitment to sustainability and Dr Bryans encouraged delegates to engage with it. She acknowledged that sustainability covered more than just carbon but stressed that it remains an important way to quantify environmental impact.
“In terms of justifying to our political masters in government, our customers and our consumers, we really need our farmers to be carbon foot printing.” Having a national average carbon footprint for the sector would be important if ever taxation or other methods were enforced, she said. “We need that and we need everybody engaged.
“Consumers need food that is sustainable, that they can afford to buy and that provides high quality nutrition,” Dr Bryans concluded. “The opportunity for us is to position ourselves as leaders, so we can continue to help feed the world.”