The UK’s best-loved dishes could become extinct as we know them in 30 years as a direct result of climate change, according to a new report released by WWF.
According to the research, chicken tikka masala, fish and chips, the cheese ploughman’s and lamb cawl (a Welsh lamb stew) may taste different, need substitute ingredients and cost more as soon as 2050, because climate change could threaten the supply of key ingredients required to make up these dishes.
The report, commissioned for Earth Hour, the world’s largest event to protect the planet, also calculated the environmental costs of these dishes today, given that around 20% of the UK’s greenhouse emissions are attributed to food production.
The cheese ploughman’s was revealed to take 2.6kg CO2e in greenhouse gas emissions to produce, the equivalent of charging a smartphone 316 times. However, the lamb cawl was the worst offender of the dishes tested, taking the equivalent of 722 smartphone charges to produce in emissions.
The report seeks to highlight how the environment and our food are interdependent and we have the ability to affect both.
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“Wherever food production takes place, the systems are dependent on the environment, whether wild fish caught at sea, sheep grazing on our hillsides or potatoes maturing in the soils beneath our feet. This report delves deeper into this dependency, to examine the relationship between food and the climate by looking at four much-loved, iconic British dishes and how they are threatened by climate change,” it says.
“We consider how our food can contribute towards the problem of climate change, but also how climate change threatens the supply of ingredients we take for granted. The results show there is a ‘two-way street’ between the climate and our food, insomuch as each is directly affected by
The report shows that by 2050, climate change could cause changes to our favourite dishes in the following ways:
Chicken tikka masala:
Chickens to be fed on alternative feeds such as insects and algae
Rice prices to rise by a third
Onion shortages caused by an increase in diseases
Higher prices for tomatoes due to extreme rainfall and heatwaves
Fish and chips:
Substitutions of anchovies used instead of cod, as warmer oceans cause those species to displace cod populations
Price spikes in lemons and potatoes due to droughts
Cheese production affected due to heat stress on dairy herds and resulting impact on milk production
Lower quality wheat due to water shortages and soil loss
Softer and sweeter apples due to warmer weather conditions
Lamb cawl (Welsh lamb stew):
Frequent flooding risks sheep welfare and could affect food production
Poor potato crops due to infestations
Weather fluctuations add volatility for dairy farmers, from feed sourcing to welfare conditions
According to the researchers, the iconic dish with the highest carbon footprint is for cawl, at 5.9kg CO2e per serving, of which three quarters derive from the lamb, largely due to the fermentation of sheep digestion that leads to methane release. These greenhouse gas emissions are the equivalent to those produced when driving a car 31 miles or boiling a kettle for 258 cups of tea.
The second highest carbon footprint dish is the ploughman’s lunch at 2.6kg CO2e, because the 124g of cheese in the recipe causes 1.3kg CO2e, this time because of the methane emissions from cow digestion.
Chicken tikka masala is the third highest at 2.0kg CO2e, with chicken, cream and rice being major contributors. The lowest footprint meal is fish and chips at 1.5kg CO2e, in part because the cod protein is wild-caught and there are no other animal products in the recipe.
Commenting on the findings, Gareth Redmond-King, head of energy and climate at WWF commented: “The threat to these classic dishes just shows that climate change could impact every aspect of our lives in future if we don’t act now. That’s why this Earth Hour we want people to eat more sustainably.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean going vegan or vegetarian – it means each of us cutting back on the amount of fish, meat and dairy we eat. If each of us takes a small action, together we can combat climate change and future-proof our best-loved dishes.”
Earth Hour takes place each year and encourages people around the world to make a commitment to protecting the environment by turning out their lights for 60 minutes at 8.30pm in their time zone. Find out more here.