The UK Climate Change Act puts in place a legally binding target of an 80% cut in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions against 1990 levels by 2050.
UK livestock production accounts for around 8% of our total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Figures suggest that meat consumption will more than double around the world by 2050, with knock-on effects for GHG emissions, water and biodiversity loss, human health and well-being, and animal welfare.
Globally, there is wide disparity in the amount of meat people eat. In the UK we consume 218g of meat per day, compared with 36g in sub Saharan Africa.
Some experts argue in favour of ‘contraction and convergence’ in global meat consumption, towards a world-wide average of 90g per day.
Meanwhile, the UK and other western nations are attempting to tackle the environmental and health issues surrounding meat production.
Pressure is mounting on producers to reduce meat and dairy GHG emissions through technical measures, and on consumers to eat less meat.
But simply cutting back may backfire with unintended consequences to producers here and abroad, rural livelihoods, animal welfare, nutrition, and even climate change itself.
Most ways of reducing emissions imply trade-offs, others could be win-wins.
Increasing carbon efficiency by intensifying production may compromise animal welfare and behavioural freedom. Reducing consumption of some livestock products might threaten farm incomes but be good for consumer health.
Extensive livestock rearing on grasslands could provide UK farmers with an 'added value' product, and reduce GHG emissions through carbon capture in the soil.
There’s no easy answer, but the more options on the table, the greater the scope to find ways of reducing emissions that are fair to all stakeholder groups.