Tesco & WWF partnership calls for reductions in on-farm food waste currently estimated to account for 10% of annual emissions from UK agriculture

A joint report from Tesco and WWF has called for mandatory farm food waste reporting, asking the UK Government to do more to reduce food waste on British farms- currently equivalent to almost 19 million meals per day
November 17, 2022

The global food system is a major driver of climate change, and British food is being wasted on a significant scale before it has even left the farm

According to recent findings from WRAP, the global food system is the leading cause of biodiversity loss and is also the second biggest driver of climate change after energy generation. It is estimated that it contributes over a third (37%) of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Yet a third of the food produced worldwide is wasted, and reducing global food loss and waste “could cut global GHG emissions by 2.1 billion tonnes CO2e per year; equivalent to taking 450 million cars off the road for a year.”[i]

In the UK, a new study by Tesco and WWF has highlighted the significant wastage of British food before it has even left the farm. The report entitled ‘Hidden Waste: the scale and impact of food waste in primary production’ has found that in UK primary production alone, an estimated 3.3 million tonnes of food is lost and wasted on farms each year. Given that total food loss and waste in the UK is estimated at 12.8 million tonnes, the farm stage accounts for 25% of this, more than that occurring in manufacturing, retail and the hospitality and food sectors combined[ii].

Source: WWF and Tesco

In terms of value, annual on-farm waste is equal to £1.8 billion and equates to 6.9 billion meals each year, or almost 19 million meals per day. In terms of the environmental impact, GHG emissions from on-farm food waste are responsible for 10% of the UK agriculture sector’s total annual emissions.

Calls for Government to support farmers

The research finds that the scale of wasted natural resources is staggering and that producing the volume of wasted food would require an area of land nearly half the size of Wales. As a result, the WWF and Tescos are calling on the UK government to take urgent action, arguing that whilst volumes of on-farm food waste have historically been excluded from industry and government data, now is the time to provide greater transparency around on-farm food waste and to support farmers in tackling this “hidden” crisis. As a key step, the NGO and retailer are suggesting the introduction of mandatory reporting of on-farm food waste, specifically for medium and large farm businesses. In the first instance, this will allow for the scale of the problem to be recognised and subsequently will allow for the tracking of reductions in waste, providing information and data upon which policy decisions can be made. Kate Norgrove, Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF, has said:

“Given the cascade of benefits that tackling food waste on farms could bring - from bolstering our food security to helping address the climate crisis - UK Government and businesses across the food sector must take urgent action to support farmers in slashing food loss and waste on farms, as part of wider efforts to drive down waste across the food system.  At the same time, ministers must reaffirm the Government’s commitment to incentives that will drive a UK-wide shift to nature friendly farming, helping to futureproof our food system and bring our world back to life.”[iii]  

‘Farm to fork’ targets and a roadmap to change

In terms of recommendations for reducing waste, the overall finding from the research was the need for greater policy intervention in farm-stage food waste. This would reduce its impact on farmers, the climate and nature crises, as well as food security within the UK. Further, in the sister report ‘Hidden waste: The Roadmap’, step-by-step actions were set out which complement Courtauld 2030, the IGD-WRAP Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, and the Champions 12.3 10×20×30 initiative. It calls on farmers already working to combat on-farm food waste to share their findings with the sector via case studies. The document also advocates for the appointment of ‘food waste champions’ by farmers – workers tasked with heading up action on this issue and sharing learnings with colleagues. Reportedly supporting Tesco and WWF with the roadmap are Sainsbury’s, the Co-op, Red Tractor, the Sustainable Food Trust, Leaf, WRAP and IGD[iv].

Six key recommendations from this are:

  1. Set binding targets for a 50% reduction in food waste from farm to fork.
  2. Implement mandatory reporting of food surplus and waste- for all post-farm gate medium and large businesses, to begin in 2023, and for all medium and large farm businesses, to begin in 2024.
  3. Integrate food waste measurement and reporting into sustainable agriculture financial incentives.
  4. Redevelop animal agriculture practices and standards based on their impact on food waste levels and integrate them into farm certification schemes.
  5. Shift subsidies in favour of redistribution and reuse of food rather than energy recovery.
  6. Implement policy to improve supply chain practices which drive on-farm food waste.

Sarah Bradbury, Quality Director at Tesco, explained: “It’s completely unacceptable that good food goes to waste, and never more so than at a time when families face rising costs and far too many people are struggling to put food on the table. It’s why we’ve worked hard to tackle the issue of food waste in our own business, recently announcing that we will accelerate our plans to halve food waste in our own operations by 2025, five years ahead of our original goal. We want to support our farmers and suppliers to do the same, encouraging them to Target, Measure, Act and follow the lead of 107 of our suppliers who have collectively cut food loss and waste by 78,000 tonnes.”[v]

As Edie.net notes, the binding target for businesses to halve food waste ‘from farm to fork’ is already being targeted by more than 260 businesses who have signed up to WRAP’s food waste reduction roadmap. Launched in 2018, the roadmap received updated guidance in 2020 and predominantly sees food manufacturers as the bulk of signatories.


[i] Food Loss and Waste: From Commitments to Action | WRAP


[iii] Hidden Waste report shines light on UK food waste | WWF

[iv] Tesco and WWF call for mandatory farm food waste reporting - edie

[v] Hidden Waste report shines light on UK food waste | WWF

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Lauren Foye
Head of Reports

Lauren has extensive experience as an analyst and market researcher in the digital technology and travel sectors. She has a background in researching and forecasting emerging technologies, with a particular passion for the Videogames and eSports industries. She joined the Critical Information Group as Head of Reports and Market Research at GRC World Forums, and leads the content and data research team at the Zero Carbon Academy. “What drew me to the academy is the opportunity to add content and commentary around sustainability across a wealth of industries and sectors.”

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