THE National Sheep Association has taken a dim view on the decision of supermarkets to grow their own ranges of plant-based foods.

The NSA’s chief executive Phil Stocker believes the actions of retailers, including Tesco and Asda, was driven by profit, and was not in the best interests of food quality or traditional farming.

As Tesco announced plans to grow the sales of plant-based meat alternatives by 300 per cent over the next five years, and Asda revealed plans to feature dedicated vegan aisles in many of their stores, the NSA is reminding consumers that there is often more to the environmental message that has been used to promote such moves.

Mr Stocker said: “We are now seeing mass-produced industrialised and processed foods being dressed up as sustainable food options, and here we have two of our biggest retailers setting growth targets based on them being better for consumers health and for the environment.

“Unsurprisingly, there are no targets for increasing the sales of fresh fruit and vegetables and it looks as though this could be another means of increasing profit margins through adding ‘value’ through intensive food processing and highly packaged products.”

The NSA accused the plant-based meat sector of avoiding using ‘holistic metrics’ to measure the sustainability of the full life cycle of food production and processing.”

Mr Stocker added: “In terms of British lamb once you look at nutrient density, the unprocessed nature of our product, land use, the ability to produce mainly from grass alone, the semi-natural, extensive method of sheep farming, the thousands of family farms, and the symbiotic relationship with nature both within and above the soil, then lamb starts to look like a highly sustainable food.

“Even if the decision is based on the assumption that vegan foods don’t ‘take a life’, then people need to be reminded that this is untrue. It may help peoples’ conscience, but even plant-based foods result in the death or the destruction of life – whether this is through habitat destruction in the case of palm oil or almond production, or pest control in crop production – whether it’s chemical or biological. The NSA challenges these retailers to set targets for increasing the market share for British lamb.

Tesco said meat and dairy production had a “significant impact” on environments such as the Amazon and Cerrado regions of Brazil, and “is acknowledged as a major contributor to climate change”. Adsa said it wanted to provide vegan foods at affordable prices.