Why Adam Henson is backing a campaign to cut our food waste

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How often have you heard the traditional Sunday lunch described as ‘The roast beef of old England’?

The words immediately make my mouth water as I imagine an enormous joint of meat surrounded by steaming veggies and all the trimmings. The phrase itself goes back centuries but has probably stuck because it was the title of a famous 18th century painting and the name of a patriotic song which is still played on certain occasions in the Royal Navy.

Roast beef is our national dish, so much so that the French nickname for us is ‘Les rosbifs’. So I was astounded when I learned that perhaps we’re not as in love with beef as we like to think, because British households are throwing away huge amounts of the stuff. Every year we chuck beef products worth £260 million in the bin. That’s 34,000 tonnes of meat or the equivalent of 300 million beef burgers.

As a farmer, I’ve dedicated my life to food production and I know how much time, effort and care goes in to raising livestock. What’s more, over the years I’ve met so many dedicated herdsmen and women on my travels around the UK filming for Countryfile, and I know they would be devastated to think that the beef they reared so lovingly just ended up in the garbage.

So over the last few weeks I’ve been busy supporting a campaign to get us all to make the most of the meat we buy. In a recent survey, people revealed the reasons for throwing away so much beef and beef products - they included buying too much, letting it go past its use-by-date and leaving it uncovered or in an open packet. But there are a few small steps and shortcuts we can take at home to save all that waste.

Writing a meal plan for the week ahead can help. So can taking a few moments to think about how and where we store food, having a decent look at the date label and serving the right portion size. But cooking with leftovers is probably the best way to cut waste. It’s something our parents’ generation didn’t think twice about in the post-war years when memories of rationing were still fresh in their minds. But the idea of making something out of what’s left of yesterday’s main meal is something that’s been lost along the way. Leftover beef makes delicious sandwiches and works a treat in cottage pie, curry, soups and stir fries too. So next time I’m in my local butchers’ shop or at the meat counter, I won’t be able to stop thinking of those 300 million beef burgers.

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