Food production is extravagant and profligate, Michael Gove has warned as he urged businesses to slash waste.
The Environment Secretary was speaking at an event to highlight the problem of food waste.
The Step Up To The Plate symposium at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum was attended by key players from food retail and hospitality as well as chefs and “social media influencers”.
Mr Gove and environment minister Therese Coffey were among the first to sign up to a pledge to halve food waste by 2030, along with the Government’s new food surplus and waste champion, Ben Elliot, who hosted the event.
Mr Gove said: “How we produce food says a lot about us and what we value. The way we produce food at the moment is profligate.
“We use water and irrigation in a way which is scornful of the limits which this Earth has placed.
“Everything about the way our food has been produced suggests a degree of extravagance and profligacy, perhaps even heedlessness, about the consequences of our generation of abundance.
“If you look back at the history of stogies, shepherd’s pie, bubble and squeak, oxtail soup, all of these are the consequences of past chefs taking food waste seriously and being determined to use every aspect of what the earth has created.”
Speaking to Press Association, Mr Gove said: “The number one recipe for me which utilises food waste are omelettes.
“One of the great things about omelettes is within reason you can can throw almost anything in.
“The other thing is both my son and I are omnivores so we are prepared to have combinations on our plate that other people might turn their nose up at.”
When asked if he would like to see supermarkets selling more vegetables and less meat, Mr Gove said: “No I wouldn’t say that. Livestock farming can play a very big part in making sure we manage our environment effectively.
“I’m a great meat-eater myself and I think that livestock farmers and dairy farmers play a critical role in making sure that there are very special landscapes in this country that remain beautiful and environmentally resilient.”
A panel discussed ways to tackle the problem of food waste and its impact on the environment.
Suggestions included better education on food waste in schools, a more transparent approach to data in which brands share supply and demand figures publicly, and clamping down on food advertising.
Stefano Agostini, chief executive of Nestle in the UK and Ireland, said: “We were part of the issue and now we want to be part of the solution.
“Education in schools will help people to understand earlier.”
Leon co-founder Henry Dimbleby said rather than cutting down on produce, big brands could better tackle food waste by using their profile to raise public awareness of the issue.
“We can communicate to the wider population. As a food brand we should be non-preachy about it,” he said.