Red meat and dairy produced in the UK are amongst the most sustainable in the world

Many of us are trying to do the right thing in reducing our environmental impact. But from plastic pollution to carbon emissions, there is a lot to consider with everything we do and buy.

When it comes to the food we eat, the way it is produced has a huge impact on its environmental impact and sustainability.

Red meat and dairy from the UK offers a more sustainable option, as our landscape and climate make it some of the most sustainably produced in the world.

Do you know where the uk’s greenhouse gas emmissions come from?

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The carbon footprint of milk produced in the UK is nearly a third lower than the global average, and beef and lamb is almost half the global average.

In fact, all meat and dairy/livestock only contributes around 6% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions.* Farmers are committed to doing their bit and they understand the role they have in cutting carbon emissions. That’s why they’re focusing on the journey to carbon-neutral by 2040.
* Source –  CIEL2020
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Of farmers are focusing on the future and sustainability

Source – Defra 2020


Although a lot of our countryside in the UK is farmland, only a small amount can actually be used to grow crops like wheat and potatoes and even less to grow fruit and vegetables.

In fact, 65% of the UK’s agricultural land is typically grassland, meadows, woodlands, hills and even mountains. This land is unable to sustain food crops, but is ideal for grazing cattle and sheep.

Using this land to graze livestock, like sheep and cows, allows farmers to produce good-quality, nutritious food and maintain the land for nature, providing wildlife with habitats for food sources and shelter.


We may love to moan about our weather, but rainwater makes up around 90% of the water needed to raise livestock in the UK*, so it’s pretty convenient that we get so much rain.

This means only a small amount of treated or tap water is needed to produce British beef, lamb, pork and milk.

*Source - UNESCO IHE and AHDB

Rainwater makes up

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of the water needed to produce red meat and dairy in Britain*

Grass makes up

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Of the feed needed for cows and sheep to prosper


Cows, sheep and pigs play a really important role in sustainable food production because they can turn the plants such as grass and food by-products we can’t eat, into meat and milk for humans, providing high quality protein alongside a range of nutrients we can’t make ourselves.

Now, let’s be clear, everything we give to livestock to eat is balanced in nutrients and of good quality, but most of it isn’t food we can eat.

For a start, humans get no nourishment from grass (we quite literally don’t have the stomach for it) however cows and sheep very much do. 

Next, you’ve got crop waste, or by-products from wheat, barley, maize, oil seed rape and so much more.

And finally, you’ve got food-processing waste, like pea pods, vegetable peelings, sugar pulp and even spent grain from beer making. Cheers!

Net zero: farming's 2040 goal

The National Farmers’ Union has set the ambitious goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the whole of agriculture in England and Wales by 2040.

The NFU sees agriculture as uniquely placed to be part of the solution against climate change, as both an emissions source and a store. For instance, did you know British farming supports over a million hectares of woodland and forests? Plus, since 2005 farmers have planted over 30,000km of hedgerows – helping biodiversity. English farmers also provide 19,000 hectares of meadows, which provide pollen and nectar sources.

That means a more sustainable agricultural industry, with minimal environmental impact from the food we eat.

“The NFU believes that the agricultural sector is very much part of the solution to decarbonising the UK economy and achieving net zero and we are working on proposals for pilot schemes to introduce policy incentives to bring to life net zero for farmers and growers”

Minette Batters

NFU President

NFU logo

Expert opinion

Red meat from Britain is amongst the most sustainable in the world. Farming contributes positively to the management of our unique landscape, supporting sequestration of carbon in soils, grassland, hedgerows and trees. Our systems deliver for the environment and rural communities and provide high quality, nutritious foods for consumers.

Nigel Scollan

Nigel Scollan

Director & Professor