Arla blog

Food for thought

Has HOW a food product is produced become a more central topic than WHY we produce it?

Did you know that if we all followed our national dietary guidelines, we could not only improve our chances of long-term health – we could take a big chunk out of our greenhouse gas emissions.

For example, a review paper from the British Nutrition Foundation in 2021 found that if people in the UK followed the official Eatwell Guide, adults could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their diets by 20-50%.

A similar estimation has been made by the Danish Council on Climate Change suggesting the Danish population could reduce emissions from their diets by 29-41% if they followed the official
Danish dietary guidelines, one of increasing number of guidelines that guide on how to eat both healthier and more climate-friendly.

So why are we not very good at following dietary guidelines? And why are dietary guidelines often playing a secondary role or are even overlooked when we discuss on social media or with friends and family what to include or leave out of our diets to be more sustainable?

From the answers Arla got from 8,000 consumers in four Northern European countries, we can conclude that low carbon footprint, biodiversity, recyclable packaging and animal welfare are among the topics that most point to when asked what they consider features of sustainable diets.
Not a huge surprise.
However, two thirds of the respondents in our survey did not point to nutrition as one of the elements that come to mind when considering a sustainable diet.
Even though nutrition was one of the options they could choose.
It’s important that consumers are growing their awareness around how their food affects the health of our planet.
And it’s necessary that we in the food industry take bold action to improve production methods and to make more sustainable food products available to consumers.
But I think it’s very concerning if the nutritional value of the food we eat has become secondary in our discussions about what it means to eat sustainably.
If how a food product is produced has become more important in these discussions than why we consume it.
In my opinion, the nutritional components and benefits of the food product should be the starting point as we set out to change our eating habits and food system.
If not, we may be taking actions that are counteractive to our own health and to securing nutrition to a growing world population.

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