Cutting carbon emissions by limiting food choice ‘a form of communism’ says Sainsbury’s director

Calls for consumers to help tackle carbon emissions by only eating the food they need, rather than the food they want, have been branded as a “form of communism” by Sainsbury’s director of trading.

Speaking at the Meat and Livestock Commission’s Outlook conference, Sainsbury’s Mike Coupe said people were not ready to have their eating patterns changed in such a radical way.

“Managing needs versus demand seems like a form of communism,” he said. “It’s something the world we are living in isn’t ready for.”

His comments came after conference delegates were told the “only viable approach” to managing land and reducing greenhouse gas emissions was to adopt a “needs rather than demand” pattern of consumption

Tara Garnett, of the Food Climate Research Network, said eating meat had to become more environmentally viable, whether through reducing consumption or through livestock farmers taking steps to reduce their farm’s greenhouse emissions.

“There will always be an environmental cost for producing food, but we need to start looking at whether other food products would be better for emissions, or whether different forms of husbandry could help,” she said.

Ms Garnett said a “meat tax” could be one way to encourage consumers to think more about what they eat and help combat the livestock industry’s carbon emissions.

“There have also been moves to say costs of emissions should be included in costs of goods and services. If that was the case we would see very different patterns of spending.”

However Mr Coupe said a tax would be unlikely to impact on people’s meat consumption.

“Taxing cigarettes and banning smoking in public areas hasn’t impacted on the consumption of cigarettes,” he said.

“We would have to make a huge change to the price of meat to affect demand.”