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What’s the beef?

9 October, 2020

Supermarkets have been reaping the rewards from the surge in demand for plant-based meat alternatives over recent years and this week Tesco has set a target to increase sales of those products by 300% by 2025. 

This is not simply a commercial move, however. It’s now widely known that meat has a far bigger environmental impact that plant-based protein sources, and that the industry is failing to address climate risk. As an important link in the farm-to-fork supply chain, supermarkets are responsible for this impact, with the carbon from food falling under their scope 3 emissions, yet these are emissions that are notoriously hard to measure. Tesco’s product range extends to over 40,000 products and data will lie with a huge number of groups in the supply chain.  

This is a responsibility Tesco is taking on, however. Through its Sustainable Basket Metric, set up in partnership with WWF last year, it is measuring the impact of its 20 most popular products from its own-brand range across seven environmental metrics and, with the support of this new target, is working to halve the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket. Although 20 products may seem like small fry, focusing on the most popular products is an effective way of making a disproportionate impact and a strong starting point for an approach we hope to see expand. Meanwhile, it will introduce plant-based alternatives across ready meals, sausages, burgers and party food, and will aim to make them affordable in line with the traditional meat options. 

Supermarkets ultimately have a big influence over what we eat. Implementing measures that shift consumption towards more sustainable options is the next step for supermarkets managing their impact. 

By Patrick Bapty

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