Tesco’s Green Advice Draws Red Flag from Meat Industry
By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire
Sometimes a retailer just can’t win. There’s Tesco going along merrily minding its shareholders’ business and trying to do its best for customers by pointing out what not everyone knows – eating meat isn’t so great for the environment.
On Tesco’s Greener Living website, one suggestion for “What makes a recipe greener?” is “Eat vegetarian.” Tesco commented, “Vegetables use less energy to produce than meat. So eat vegetarian or vegan meals to reduce your environmental impact and lower your carbon footprint.”
Suggestions also included buying local and seasonal produce, re-using leftovers and cooking more efficiently.
Tesco’s vegetarian comments reflect longstanding concerns by environmentalists over methane emissions from animals (from which meat comes). Methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas, according to The Times. In an interview last fall with the British newspaper, energy expert and economics professor at the London School of Economics, Lord Stern, said, “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”
Nonetheless, Tesco has been loudly criticized, according to websites meatinfo.co.uk and farmersguardian.com. Both sites reported disappointment from the National Farmers’ Union’s livestock board chair Alastair Mackintosh, who said that it is wrong to look at a complex issue such as agriculture in a “simplistic way.” Mr. Mackintosh added, “UK agriculture takes the issue of environmental impact very seriously as shown by a number of initiatives such as the industry roadmap, and as an industry we continue to look at ways to further reduce our impact.”
For its part, a Tesco spokesperson explained that the advice was just one of many suggestions on how consumers “could cut their carbon footprint” and it was not the supermarket’s intention to convert shoppers to a completely vegetarian diet. He added, “Our Greener Living website offers a combination of facts and ideas to help customers reduce their carbon footprint.”
So it seems that “Tesco is proud to be the number one retailer of British meat” even though some may think that they want to sell less of it.
Discussion Questions: Did Tesco go too far in suggesting consumers try vegetarian or vegan diets for eco-reasons? How should retailers handle offering consumers helpful advice on “Greener Living” considering the potential conflicts with suppliers? Would it be better to maintain a discreet silence and let people decide for themselves?
- Tesco slammed for urging customers to eat less meat – meatinfo.co.uk
- Tesco denies claims it advised consumers to go vegetarian – farmersguardian.com
- Tesco: what makes a recipe green – Tesco
- Climate chief Lord Stern: give up meat to save the planet – The Times