German ministry meat ban gets teeth into Irish beef

Ireland juggles contradiction of beef farming with targets for cutting carbon emissions

Cattle farming: EU row is a testament to how meat production, and beef in particular, is fast becoming a climate bogeyman. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Cattle farming: EU row is a testament to how meat production, and beef in particular, is fast becoming a climate bogeyman. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

As Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed endeavours to open up new markets for Irish beef, Germany’s environment minister announced her ministry would no longer be serving meat at official functions.

Social Democrat minister Barbara Hendricks cited the environmental burden of intensive meat production as the reason for her shift to veggie-only buffets.

“We want to set a good example for climate protection, because vegetarian food is more climate-friendly than meat and fish,” she said.

Her meat ban drew the ire of Germany’s schnitzel-eating Christian Democrats, the other side of the ruling coalition, who claimed the move was evidence of how the Social Democrats would interfere in the private lives of citizens, should they take power in Germany’s upcoming election.

Outside of the pre-election jousting, the row is a testament to how meat production, and beef in particular, is fast becoming a climate bogeyman akin to fossil fuel emissions.

Swedish study

A Swedish study published in the Food Policy journal last week suggested EU climate targets could not be met unless emissions linked to beef and dairy consumption were dramatically reduced.

Reductions, by 50 per cent or more, in ruminant meat (beef and mutton) consumption are, most likely, unavoidable, the study suggested.

All of which must be sending shivers through those in the food industry here, who are already grappling with the potential risk to Ireland’s €11 billion food trade from Brexit. Beef is the single biggest item in this trade but also the biggest carbon-emitting element. It is also heavily reliant on subsidies from Europe, which is increasingly signing up to tougher climate targets and measures.

Undaunted by Europe’s toughening stance on climate emissions, the Government is aiming to nearly double the value of Ireland’s food output under its FoodWise 2025 plan while drawing up the State’s latest climate mitigation plan to radically curb emissions by 2030.

It seems both these ambitions can’t succeed simultaneously but nobody in officialdom wants to deal with the contradiction. As a result, the age-old policy of fudge prevails.

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