Sustainable meat and environmental quality

More and more sustainable meat is becoming available. As a company, it is no longer a question of WHEN you are going to sell sustainable meat, but WHEN and HOW.

With the start of new hygiene regulations in 1996 concerning Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), butchers often started to laugh. With HACCP one takes the responsibility for analysing critical processes and then demonstrably controlling them. "Checklists are nonsense because you can fiddle with them yourself". HACCP was a bit of a tongue twister, but it has now been fully established. Food safety is managed on the basis of personal responsibility and, with the new control regulation, risk-oriented enforcement. An entire process of change.

We are currently dealing with the development of new environmental legislation. For food companies, this means more sustainable production. Sustainable raw materials, such as 'organic', 'short chain products' or the 'Better Life' mark for meat. Packaging in 'bio-based packaging' instead of plastic packaging made from petroleum (toxins) and using 'green electricity', 'residual processing' and preventing food from being wasted. Sustainability is now largely voluntary but will become compulsory step by step. A new process of change.

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi via Pexels

Sustainable meat and environmental quality in the EU

Environmental policy in the European Union (EU) began with the March 2013 Green Paper. A move towards concrete targets to strive for a low-carbon economy. In December 2019, this resulted in the 'European Green Deal' introduced by Vice President Frans Timmermans. It includes targets on biodiversity, the 'farm to fork' programme, sustainable agriculture, clean energy, sustainable industry, cleaner construction, sustainable transport, less pollution and an EU neutral climate by 2050. These goals are gradually being incorporated into legislation. The new Nitrates Directive aims at less pollution of surface water. The Plastic Pact bans, among other things, disposable plastic plates, cutlery and straws. The Netherlands is stricter, as all disposable plastic will soon be banned here, so it is wise to start thinking about good alternatives now.

Developments in sustainable meat and environmental quality in the Netherlands 

The Netherlands is a small country for which it is difficult to meet European targets. The European Nitrates Directive, for example, stipulates that the Netherlands may not produce more than 172.9 million kilos of phosphate from animal manure, and that is a difficult point for a small country with a rich history of milk and cattle. This must be curbed. The new dairy law therefore stipulates that companies that want to expand must be able to dispose of a certain part of their manure on their own land. If they cannot do so according to the guidelines, the company will have to provide additional land. And that is scarce in the Netherlands. On the other hand, Minister Carola Schouten of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Quality (LNV) is pushing for a switch to circular agriculture in 2030. In circular farming, as little waste as possible is released, emissions of harmful substances are minimised and raw materials and end products are used with the least possible loss. According to Minister Schouten, consumers have an important role in circular agriculture. They must know that the production of food has a major impact on the living environment. This year the Ministry of LNV is working intensively with the Dutch provinces and the Short Chain Taskforce, in cooperation with LTO-Nederland, to accelerate the development of the short chain. Partly due to the corona crisis, short-chain companies have the wind in their backs. Their turnover has tripled.

Environmental quality and the sale of sustainable meat

The sale of sustainable food is on the rise. And Minister Carola Schouten is obviously pleased about that. She commissioned Wageningen Economic Research to conduct the study 'Sustainable Food Monitor 2019', which was published on 17 November 2020. It states that the Dutch spent a total of €7.7 billion on sustainable food. An increase of 18% compared to 2018. These are sustainable products with an independent quality mark (external control organisation). The 'Beter Leven' (Better Life) quality mark (BLK) was the most sold with €2.8 billion. This is followed by the 'Organic' quality marks (EUR 1.6 billion) and 'UTZ Certified' (EUR 1.5 billion). Almost all product groups with a sustainability label showed growth. And that is of course logical with the VAT increase from 6 to 9% as of 1 January 2019. But that turns out not to be the only explanation. Meat and meat products with €2,096 million have a growth of 10% compared to 2018. The large growth of BLK is mainly explained by more sales of BLK 1 star eggs because several supermarkets have set this lower limit for free-range eggs as of 1 January 2019. The product group coffee and tea with € 1,233 million has a growth of 6% and long-life products, composite meals and other with € 1,039 million a growth of 15%. The meat sector is doing well thanks to the BLK label, partly due to pressure from supermarkets. Short-chain products are not counted because it is not an independent hallmark. But with the incentive for #, this is on the rise.

Business objectives for the sale of sustainable meat

In order to switch to circular agriculture in 2030 and produce without pollution in 2050, it is wise to start thinking now about which sustainability steps can be taken. For example, produce more sustainable meat, invest in sustainable packaging or seek connection in the short chain? Make sure you have enough knowledge to be able to make wise decisions in the future, or include the environment in your new corporate goals now. Unilever recently presented its new 'Future Foods' initiative for a healthier and more sustainable food system with the following objectives: an annual turnover of 1 billion euros from the sale of vegetable-based substitutes for animal products and a halving of food waste. The process of change has begun.

Published in Vleesmagazine, December 2020

Yvon Bemelman