The Countryside Alliance welcomes the Government’s food strategy, published in June 2022, and its proposals to back British farmers and producers, reconnect consumers with their food, and ensure food security in these uncertain times.
Food production is essential to the environmental benefits from agriculture. Unless we recognise the dual role of farmers as food producers and conservationists, we risk turning farmers into environmental contractors with little incentive to continue farming. The strategy could be clearer in linking the food production to action against climate change and to enhance the natural environment.
Migrant labour has typically played an important role in harvesting, production, and processing across the food supply chain, in both skilled and unskilled jobs. Seasonal agricultural workers are particularly important in filling temporary and labour-intensive roles. This type of employment is not only important for farming, but also for other sectors of the rural economy such as forestry and game farming.
The first consultation associated with the strategy was on public sector food and catering policy, which provides an excellent opportunity to celebrate game meat and push for it to be on the menu. There is already a trial of six NHS Trusts who are piloting pheasant, partridge and venison on their menus as part of a project driven by British Game Assurance.
Improving the labelling of food can empower the consumer. We would support efforts to develop a comprehensive food labelling policy and extend mandatory country of origin labelling. Meat and products containing meat should only be labelled British if the animals were born, bred and slaughtered in the UK.
We also believe a proper network of local abattoirs is essential, to promote local sourcing of meat, reduce the environmental impact of food miles and promote animal welfare.