Environmental visions of the meat industry

Norwegian food production is the origin of nine per cent of Norway's emissions of greenhouse gases, and the worst offender in food production is the meat industry. This is a challenge the industry needs to face. Meat Day 2009 focused on the environment and looked ahead to the future.

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Minister of Agriculture and Food Lars Peder Brekk focused on the mutual dependency of food production and the environment in his opening statement. "Agriculture is a very vulnerable sector regarding climate changes, but on the other hand it produces a large share of greenhouse gases," stated Brekk.

Bekk wants to bring the environmental aspect of the food industry to the forefront of the agenda at the forthcoming Copenhagen Climate Council, as this issue was barely mentioned in Kyoto. A climate crisis cannot be solved without solving the food crisis, and the entire value change needs to take responsibility. The world needs more food, and by 2050 current food needs will have doubled. It’s just not possible to produce food without emission of greenhouse gases, and there are many issues that need to be discussed in relation to this.

"If population development estimates are correct, we will have one million more inhabitants just in Norway by 2030, and need 20 per cent more food than today. We already import 50 per cent of all the food we eat, and if there is a global food shortage we may be forced to reduce our imports. We must take responsibility for ourselves and produce more of our own food. In order to achieve this, we need more efficient food production," said Brekk.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Haavard Elstrand, managing director of the Federation of Norwegian Meat Industry, said that his federation had made a decision: the industry shares the responsibility for climate changes. The Federation has mapped potential savings related to investments, and has found that potential savings for the meat industry are around 30 per cent. They aim to improve energy efficiency by 20 per cent by 2012 as well as reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 30 per cent by 2020 and by 66 per cent by 2030.

The Federation of Norwegian Meat Industry has mapped the most important measures that need to be implemented in order to reach these aims:
1. Energy efficiency (in cooperation with Enova)
2. Process and product development
3. Packaging
4. Transport – but an efficient industry is more important to the environment than transport
5. Waste management

"Participants in the industry are aware of our responsibilities. Now it’s time for the authorities to commit to relevant research and financial support systems," concluded Elstrand.

Environmentally friendly packaging
Category Manager Odd Ture Wang of Norgesgruppen encouraged the meat industry to carefully consider their choice of packaging, and ensure improved and more consistent labelling concerning shelf life.

"We would like packaging that enables us to use space in an optimal way, including in transport. Furthermore, we would like the number of consumer units in a distribution unit to be related to what the stores can sell before the use by date expires," says Wang.

This is another area where Norgesgruppen feel the industry can contribute more, in particular because wastage is a major environmental and financial problem. Wastage in Norwegian stores is at about 50,000 tonnes per year, and meat is a considerable part of it.

Peeking at the future
Meat Day also included several visions. Stig Omholt of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB) presented his interesting vision of meat produced in laboratories. He informed the participants that it is technically possible to produce this type of meat today, and in particular that this meat will have positive effects on the environment, animal welfare and disease.

Director Ragni Ofstad of Nofima Mat presented visions for year 2015 developed by Nofima Mat and the Research Council of Norway’s Food Programme. What will we eat 20 years from now, and how is this food produced? What will happen if there is an even greater shortage of resources, or what if new technology ensures that there is enough food for all?

"Nofima Mat’s picture of the future in 2015 gives us an image of our best guesses, and one of the most important conclusions we can draw is an increased focus on the combination of food and the environment. Consumers and industry participants will both take more responsibility for the environment. The environment will be a factor to the same extent as safe and long-lasting food. Perhaps all food will be labelled with a code which we can scan using our mobile phones in order to get information such as CO2 footprint, degree of recyclability and whether the packaging is recyclable," concluded Ofstad at the end of this year’s Meat Day.

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