TV presenter suggests Britons should eat locally-produced meat and dairy rather than imported plant-based alternatives
The 55-year-old presenter argued that people would be “better off” consuming dairy produced locally rather than buying nut milks that may have come from parts of the world that create deforestation through their agricultural practices.
Speaking to the Radio Times, Mr Henson, who owns a 1,600-acre farm near Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire, said: “If you’re drinking soya milk, that might have come from South America and caused deforestation, the destruction of species, the displacement of indigenous people.
“You’re better off drinking milk from a local dairy farm that’s been bottled there and delivered to your doorstep, where cows are wonderfully looked after and the family contribute to the local society and economy.”
He went on to describe avocados and almond milks as “disastrous for the environment”, adding: “Beef, sheep and dairy farmers are having fingers pointed at them quite a lot about health and climate change, but the industries are doing a huge amount about that.”
The farming of both soy and almond have been linked to some environmentally damaging practices.
Studies have linked the import of large quantities of soy from Brazil to deforested land in the Amazon and Cerrado regions, while almond production for almond milk has been linked to strain on honeybees in the US, where almonds are the largest specialist crop.
Producing almond milk also requires much more water compared to other plant-based milks such as oat or hemp seed milk. One glass of almond milk requires on average 74 litres (130 pints) of water to produce.
However, producing a glass of dairy milk results in almost three times more greenhouse gas emissions than any plant-based milk, and also requires nine times more land, a 2018 study by University of Oxford researchers found.
Additionally, the UK’s agriculture industry currently accounts for about 10 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (ADHB), the industry still needs to adopt new practices to reduce emissions and withdraw carbon from the atmosphere.
In a report published last year, government climate change advisers from the Climate Change Committee suggested the UK needed to reduce meat and dairy consumption by 20 per cent over the next decade if it was to reach the target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Mr Henson insists farmers are more focused on the environment now, pointing to a target set by the National Farmers’ Union to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for agriculture in England and Wales by 2040, a decade earlier than the government’s goal.
He urged the public to “eat British food and don’t buy cheap food from abroad. It’s about understanding where your food comes from and making informed choices, not having a knee-jerk reaction because you’ve read something on social media,” he added.