'Bordering on preposterous': Government food strategy tells public to eat venison instead of beef to save planet

·3-min read

A leaked version of the government's new food strategy advises people to eat wild venison as a low-carbon alternative to beef and grow their own cucumbers to save the planet, reports claim.

The 27-page document, due to be officially released on Monday, follows two reports carried out by the co-founder of restaurant chain Leon, Henry Dimbleby, into the UK's food system.

His probes into obesity and the environment, commissioned by former environment minister Michael Gove, resulted in recommendations to expand free school meals, impose a long-campaigned for salt and sugar tax, and introduce GP prescriptions for fruit and veg.

But according to a version of the strategy, seen by The Guardian and The Telegraph, these proposals have been ignored in favour of "a statement of vague intentions" - Rob Percival, head of food policy at the Soil Association, said.

They include encouraging fish farming, long seen as highly damaging for the environment, increasing consumption of "responsibly sourced venison", food from algae proteins, and producing technology to help cattle produce less methane.

Compulsory vegan meal options in schools, prisons and across the public sector also feature alongside animal welfare warnings on restaurant menus - if premises use factory-farmed meat.

While a cost of living crisis grips the UK, with recent ONS data revealing most Britons are cutting down on food and other essentials, the government says the cost of food "isn't the business of government food strategy".

There are also no recommendations for any state interventions on obesity, despite 64% of UK adults and 40% of children being overweight.

Mr Percival told Sky News: "They're letting a cost of living crisis go unaddressed, they're allowing unsustainable diets to continue, and they're exacerbating the ecological crisis."

He described the references to wild venison as "a little peculiar" and heavily criticised the government's position on not intervening in people's diets and failing to expand the free school meals programme.

According to reports, the strategy document states: "Government can set a clear direction for industry and ensure that consumers are empowered with information to make improved dietary choices.

"Government should also incentivise industry to reformulate and promote healthier food that is more accessible, and design and deliver policy actions that drive improvements across the food environment."

Jim McMahon, Labour's shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, responded: "The UK is in a cost-of-living crisis with food prices spiralling, real-wages falling, growth plummeting and taxes up.

"It is clear now that the government has absolutely no ambition to fix the mess they have created.

"This is nothing more than a statement of vague intentions, not the concrete proposals to tackle the major issues facing our country. To call it a 'food strategy' is bordering on the preposterous."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) refused to comment on the leaked document.

"We will be setting out the contents of our ambitious new food strategy in due course," a spokesperson said in a statement.

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