Letter to the editor: Bord Bia CEO ‘disappointed’ with ‘misleading’ RTÉ programme

I watched with interest the first two episodes of ‘What Planet Are You On’ on RTÉ. While I welcome the informative and valuable points raised about energy use, water consumption and food waste in Irish households, I was deeply disappointed by the misleading dietary advice presented to viewers and the unfair portrayal of the Irish meat and dairy industry.

Understanding the environmental impact our food choices have on the world around us is critical to ensuring we produce food sustainably now and into the future.

However, the nutritional and economic impact of these choices must also be considered in any debate on what is a complex and urgent subject.

Unfortunately, this was not the case on the first two episodes of ‘What Planet Are You On’.

High standards of Irish produce

In Ireland we are fortunate that our farmers, growers and producers supply us with food and drink produce of an exceptionally high standard.

Yet simple and practical advice such as supporting Irish producers and consuming in season, locally grown foods from sustainable sources was not presented to viewers for consideration as sustainable dietary choices.

As well as disregarding the important role meat and dairy plays in a healthy balanced diet, the recommendation to drastically reduce or avoid these food groups as expressed in the programme is overly simplistic.

Similarly, by presenting meat and dairy as unsustainable choices, the programme failed to acknowledge the significant efforts Irish farmers and the wider food and drink industry are making to reduce its environmental impact.

It also disregarded the temperate climate and grass-based farming system that sets Ireland apart from many other meat and dairy producing countries.

Balanced approach needed by RTÉ

While there is more to achieve, there is no other country doing what Ireland is undertaking in terms of working towards sustainable food production, including carbon foot printing every farm.

As our national public broadcaster, RTÉ is essential to telling this story.

Last week I contacted RTÉ’s director general to request that a more balanced representation of Irish sustainable food and drink production is reflected across RTÉ programming.

In addition, Bord Bia launched a targeted online media campaign to counteract and negate any potential negative consumer reaction. This campaign is ongoing and will continue for the weeks ahead.

In partnership with Meat & Dairy Facts – a joint industry campaign to better inform consumers about the nutritional benefits of Irish meat and dairy – Bord Bia will continue to play its part to proactively promote the significant efforts by Irish farmers to protect the environment and care for their animals, and the important role played by meat and dairy in a healthy, balanced diet.

From Tara McCarthy, CEO Bord Bia