Boris Johnson is to announce the first review of the UK’s food strategy in 75 years as he seeks to tackle food security and the cost of living.
Officials have been working on the report, which has been delayed twice, since the publication of an independent review by Henry Dimbleby, the founder of Leon, last July.
A leaked draft seen by The Telegraph sets out plans to increase the productivity of UK farms, offer vegan meals to school students and prisoners, and tackle shortages of migrant workers.
Mr Johnson is expected to announce the “grow for Britain” strategy on a visit to the southwest of England on Monday.
Vegan school meal drive
All pupils will be given a vegan school dinner option, under plans to reform public sector meals contained in the strategy seen by the Telegraph.
Prisoners, hospital patients and workers in government buildings will also be given the option under the proposals, which are designed to encourage low-carbon meals.
“We would like public sector menus to make it as easy as possible for people to make sustainable choices,” reads the consultation document seen by The Telegraph.
“Evidence shows that plant-based food products are generally less carbon-intensive to produce than livestock products.
“There is good evidence to show that changing food environments and providing more vegetarian options can encourage individuals to make more sustainable food choices.
“Furthermore, increasing consumer choice of vegetarian and vegan options would reflect the rising trend of flexitarianism, vegetarianism and veganism in the UK.”
The idea is set to be subject to a consultation to be launched in the coming weeks, as part of a “school meals revolution” previously announced by Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary.
On Friday, Defra sources suggested the vegan school meals plan had been dropped by political officials since it was drawn up by civil servants.
A source said: “Meat is an important protein source, and our children should eat healthy and locally-sourced produce.”
Following recommendations from Mr Dimbleby, the Government has acknowledged that meat farming is carbon-intensive and is also exploring ways to support “alternative proteins” including lab-grown meat and beans and pulses.
“British-grown beans and pulses are another great example of low carbon sustainable proteins that provide healthy diets, contribute substantially to farming objectives and are recognised as valuable break crops in arable cropping,” it states.
The public is also set to be urged to eat venison from culled deer that would otherwise be discarded.
Deer stalkers will be encouraged to sell carcasses of animals that are killed after a shoot, which can then become “responsibly sourced wild venison”, according to the strategy.
Animal welfare warnings on menus
Pubs and restaurants could be forced to give customers animal welfare warnings on menus if they use factory-farmed meat.
Monday’s food strategy is set to announce plans to increase “food data transparency”, involving retailers submitting data on the sustainability, healthiness and animal welfare of their products to a Government portal to name and shame bad practices.
But the plans could also see changes to food labelling requirements to “help consumers identify when products meet or exceed our high UK animal welfare standards”.
The system could work in a similar way to recent plans to put calorie counts on menus.
Meals served in public spaces such as schools, prisons and hospitals may also be told that 50 per cent of their products must come either from local farms or meet high environmental protection standards, in an attempt to reduce the carbon footprint of public sector meals.
The announcement is set to also set out how countries signing post-Brexit trade deals with the UK could be given preferential terms if they are supplying meat that comes from farms with high animal welfare standards.
“Those wishing to access the UK market must objectively demonstrate their approach delivers an equivalent level of health protection to our domestic standards,” it states, pointing to plans for “more generous liberalisation for products certified as meeting certain key animal welfare criteria specified in the agreement”.
Migrant workers to be replaced with robots
Mr Johnson is also expected to announce plans to deal with a shortage of migrant workers that is reducing Britain’s food security.
Ministers are concerned that since Brexit, many farms have been unable to fill seasonal vacancies for poultry preparation and fruit picking because of strict requirements on migrant labour.
The strategy is set to announce that poultry workers will be eligible for a Seasonal Migrant Visa, which is currently only available to foreign horticulture and pork butchery staff.
The draft also states that the Government will also launch a new independent review on how to fill migrant worker vacancies, which will explore how to encourage Britons to take jobs in the sector and how many of the roles could be automated.
Officials are interested in the work of robot farm workers in Japan and elsewhere, and developments in intensive crop farming, which can take place in trays in warehouses rather than in fields.
“Recognising that the sector cannot sustainably rely on migrant labour, especially in light of global pressures elsewhere, the Government will also in the coming weeks commission an independent review to tackle labour shortages in the food supply chain,” the strategy states.
Johnson scraps nanny state interventions
Calls for a salt and sugar tax to improve the nation’s health look set to be formally knocked down in the announcement on Monday.
Ministers are set to respond to an earlier independent review last July, which proposed a series of radical policies to cut “ultra-processed” foods from diets, including a dramatic reduction in meat consumption and action on sugar and salt.
It is thought that recent concern in Downing Street about “nanny state” policies and rising concern about the cost of living has led to the policies being formally scrapped, alongside other plans to reduce promotions on high-fat products such as chocolate bars.
The draft strategy concludes that “further research is needed” on ultra-processed foods to “determine their exact role in driving obesity” while noting that “government intervention can cause unintended consequences”.
Plans to reduce cows’ flatulence
Ministers are planning to launch a formal investigation on cows breaking wind, amid concerns that methane emissions from cattle are warming the planet, according to the draft strategy.
Officials believe that changing the formula of cattle feed could reduce their methane emissions, and are set to announce plans to “help the livestock and protein sectors embrace ‘climate-smart farming’ and innovative technologies”.
The plans would begin with a formal government call for evidence “to better understand the challenges associated with the use of feed additives and materials that can reduce methane emissions from livestock”.
The National Farmers’ Union has said that methane emissions from UK agriculture account for around 5.5 per cent of Britain’s total greenhouse gas emissions.