The Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) says it’s time to change the way we farm, ‘align our diets to what the UK can sustainably produce’ and reduce our ‘addiction to volatile food imports and costly fossil fuel fertilizers’.

The statements come in a new report by the SFT, Feeding Britain from the Ground Up, which argues that switching to sustainable farming could ‘improve our health, protect nature, combat climate change’ and make us ‘more food secure as a nation’.

While the war in Ukraine continues to drive up prices and shortages, the report draws a roadmap for an alternative national food and farming strategy – one which features a decrease in consumption of chicken and pork and an increase in British-grown fruit, vegetables, grains and pulses.

If the UK switched to sustainable and regenerative farming methods, the SFT argues, the following is likely: “We would produce double the amount of fruit and vegetables. Grain production would halve due to a phase out of chemical inputs and less land being used for intensive crop production. Much less grain would be fed to livestock and intensive livestock production would be phased out, resulting in a 75% decline in pork and chicken production. We would produce double the amount of pulses (peas and beans). Beef and lamb, reared mainly on grass, would continue to be produced at similar quantities as today and would become our staple meat.”

Today, food and farming are part of the problem, but we believe they could be a big part of the solution

The report’s detailed assessment makes the case that ‘the food and energy crises are directly comparable’. “The increased cost of fossil fuels adds further weight to the urgent need for a transition to renewable energy. The same is now true for food – price rises of fertilizers, livestock feed and fuel due to the Ukraine war should be a direct stimulus to move towards more sustainable food production. This is counter to the argument that fertilizers should be subsidized and food production further intensified to weather this storm. It is paramount that everyone has access to healthy, sustainable food and the Government should intervene to ensure this.”

Patrick Holden (pictured), the SFT’s CEO, comments: “With the current cost of living crisis and rising worldwide hunger and food shortage, supercharged by the war in Ukraine, we face a choice in how to ensure national food security while also addressing the urgent issues of climate change, nature loss and human health.

“We can either double down on industrial farming to produce food that is bad for our health, the environment and food security – or we can turn this crisis into an opportunity to accelerate more sustainable food and farming and, ultimately, ensure everyone has access to healthy, sustainable food. Today, food and farming are part of the problem, but we believe they could be a big part of the solution if we make the right choices in the coming months and years.

“We can all play a big role in driving the change that is urgently needed. If we want to eat sustainably, we should eat the foods that can be grown in harmony with nature across the UK. As consumers and citizens, changing our diets could be one of the most important actions we take to address the threats of climate change, nature loss and damage to public health, and support farmers to transform the way they farm.”