It’s long been known that meat is environmentally damaging, but the conversation tends to be dominated by beef production and its link to deforestation, biodiversity loss, and climate breakdown. It’s as though they think if we keep talking about cows, we’ll conveniently overlook the rest of the sector, but those of us who love to wallow in data know that chicken production is not only damaging to chickens; it has a huge and very troubling environmental impact, too.
But how do we communicate all this? we wondered.
We could take our trousers off, suggested Matthew, unbuttoning his fly.
Great idea, agreed Adam, his belt already in his hand.
Okay, so this is not exactly how the conversation went, but for full transparency we should say that Matthew and Adam required zero persuasion to drop their keks. Anyway, back to the main point…
We decided to commission an independent audit by Mondra to assess and compare the impact of VFC’s range versus generic southern fried chicken made from chickens, and the results are in. Gram for gram, in every single metric, VFC came out on top. Boom!, as the kids used to say.
We Can Have Wild Birds or Farmed Birds, But Not Both
The audit found that land use, climate-changing emissions, water pollution and water scarcity are all significantly worse in chicken meat production than VFC production. But what really stood out to us is that, gram for gram when compared to our Fillets, the meat version also has 20 times the impact on biodiversity.
Newspaper headlines about wildlife are unfailingly worrying. Since 1970, the world has lost 60 per cent of wild animal populations. One million species are threatened with extinction. The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. The expansion of agricultural land is a key problem.
With this comparative data, we can suddenly see very clearly why wild animal populations are in freefall, and how our unwitting food choices are driving their destruction.
To The Moon and Back 153 times
Now, you may know that we are partial to a spreadsheet, and that we get a little feverish over graphs and pie charts, too, but we asked Mondra to set aside the figures and instead paint us a picture. They told us that, if the entire meat-eating population of the UK ate VFC Fillets instead of southern fried chicken for just one meal per week for one year, there would be multiple very positive outcomes.
Six Ways Eating VFC Fillets Just Once A Week Helps the Environment
- Emissions equivalent to driving 73.2 million miles in a car would be saved (does it help to know that the moon is 238,855 miles away?)
- Water equivalent to 99.8 million showers would be saved
- 7.1 million kgs of excreta would not be produced*
- 18.5 million kgs of chicken feed would not be required **
- 9.3 tonnes of methane released from farming chickens would not be emitted
- 3.8 million chickens’ lives would be spared
It’s enough to blow your socks, as well as your trousers, off.
All this environmental positivity from switching just one meal a week to vegan. Imagine – as we often do – how our planet could heal if everyone ate vegan at every meal.
Overall, Foundation Earth found that VFC is a straight A student.
Tinkering While the Planet Burns
Evidence from every credible institution is now saying the same thing: we need to cut our consumption of meat to protect the planet. So, what does the meat industry do in response? It suggests we toilet-train cows or put them in nappies. Ridiculous! You might as well expect those poor creatures to burp into a bag. Oh, that’s been suggested too has it? Of course it has.
Enough with the tinkering. Show us your impact, KFC. Show us your impact, Cargill, JBS and Tyson Foods. We already know that the largest user of soy on the planet is the chicken industry. We already know that, in this wasteful industry, chickens are fed three times as much food as is returned in their meat. And we know about the links between chicken farming and Amazon deforestation. Now we want you to come clean and make your own environmental data public. No more greenwashing. No more bullsh*t. And then we want you to do better.
wise words from our very own wise man
“We created VFC specifically to spare the lives of animals, but, as an ethical company, we also wanted to understand how our products impact the planet. So, to achieve an A grade across the entire range of VFC is fantastic news, and shows once again the powerful impact we can have when we choose vegan foods over animal-based foods. We know that the meat industry is causing significant and widespread damage to our climate, waterways, wild spaces and wild animal populations. Their commitments so far amount to little more than tinkering with the existing system, and that’s not good enough. We need these companies to be honest about their impacts, and then to expand their investment in, and their production and promotion of, meat-free foods.”Matthew Glover, VFC co-founder
Their Profits Trump Our Existence
The “poultry” industry is worth $310 billion which sounds like a lot of money until you compare it to the $650 billion cost of climate disasters just between 2016 and 2018, and the $90 trillion needed by 2030 for infrastructure to help us transition to a green economy.
We have to ask: should shareholders’ amassing personal wealth be prioritised over our ability to survive, and over our ability to protect our planet, its non-human inhabitants and its breath-taking, soul-soaring beauty? Should this industry not be held accountable?
Although Mondra’s impact assessment puts VFC in the highest eco category, we remain vigilant and proactive when it comes to additional improvements we can make. We commissioned this independent audit specifically so we can learn, identify meaningful improvements, and evolve. While we love a daft joke at least as much as the next person, we take our responsibilities incredibly seriously. It’s time others did the same.
- VFC throws down a challenge to the meat industry to put forward their Mondra scores.
- VFC Fried Chick*n Fillets have a 20 times lower impact on biodiversity & use 24 times less water than generic southern fried chicken fillets.
- If everyone ate VFC instead of southern fried fillets from chickens just once a week, we would save emissions equivalent to driving to the moon and back 153 times.
- The meat industry has been tinkering with the problem for too long. We need to do better.
*The excreta from animal farms is a serious water pollutant that contributes to algal bloom, the suffocation of aquatic life and ocean dead zones. 78 per cent of global ocean and freshwater eutrophication is caused by agriculture, and animal products are the leading cause.
** It requires 3.3kg of feed to produce 1 kg of chicken meat, meaning a net loss of nutrients, and a lot more land is needed to produce animal products. This is a driving factor in the biodiversity crisis. (Feed Conversion Ratio, Alexander et al, 2016)