Sheep industry leaders have hit out at a report which claims lamb stew is the most polluting out of a range of classic British meals.
The National Sheep Association (NSA) says it completely disputes claims in a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report titled Food in a Warming World.
The report looked at four iconic meals – chicken tikka masala, fish and chips, ploughman’s lunch, and lamb stew, or cawl as it is known in Wales – and the resulting carbon footprint associated with their production.
It claims that the production of lamb causes a significantly higher release of greenhouse gases, such as methane, compared to the production of other ingredients leading the organisation to call the meal the most damaging.
According to the report, production of lamb as an ingredient for stew produces the equivalent level of greenhouse gas emissions as boiling a kettle 258 times or driving a car for 31 miles.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said he believed WWF was risking its credibility by trying to assess complex interactions through “single lens and simplistic ways”.
“This report confuses naturally occurring carbon cycles with industrial greenhouse gas emissions and ignores the role of pastures and soils and even wool as stable carbon stores,” said Mr Stocker.
“WWF’s criticism of lamb cawl ignores the highly nutritious and balanced nature of this dish and the fact that it is in line with the advice given by many nutritionists to eat less but higher quality grass fed meat and to incorporate this with vegetables.”
Describing the report as irresponsible, Mr Stocker said if people were naive enough to follow its advice, they would opt for fish and chips and potentially disrupt stable and diverse food supplies due to the fact cod stocks were very recently described as dangerously low.
“Comparing meal options by incomplete carbon footprinting alone ignores all the other aspects that surround the production of any food and we know that sheep farming delivers a wide array of environmental and social outcomes that are highly valued by society, particularly in upland areas where extensive lamb production is key to maintaining the environment and local communities,” said Mr Stocker.