A fake meat alternative will be offered for every animal product on Tesco shelves within four years, the supermarket has said in a leaked email.
In correspondence seen by The Telegraph, the retailer laid out its plans to encourage customers to eat less meat.
Responding to allegations the supermarket trades with a company linked to deforestation in Brazil, David Lewis, the former CEO of the supermarket, wrote to Greenpeace shortly before he left the company at the end of last year outlining Tesco's commitment to "reduce meat and dairy consumption".
British countryside organisations have hit back at the supermarket, arguing that the way to tackle deforestation is buying from ethical British farmers rather than funding supply chains linked to environmental destruction.
Earlier this year, the current CEO Ken Murphy referred back to that letter and reaffirmed the company's commitment to meet the meat reduction targets, adding that the company's goal is to increase meat alternative sales by 300 per cent by 2025.
“Consumers have the right to select products based on their personal dietary preferences"
Mr Lewis wrote: "Like you, we realise the UK needs to reduce meat and dairy consumption. Since 2018 we've been working with suppliers to drive plant-based innovation and choice, leading to increases in our plant-based meat alternative products".
He said the supermarket would do this by "[Providing] plant-based proteins where a meat version is featured" and vowed to "publish plant based protein sales as a percentage of protein sales from 2021".
Mr Murphy reiterated this commitment, and said: "We have also set a stretching and industry-leading target to increase sales of plant-based meat alternatives by 300 per cent by 2025. We will deliver this through a range of pricing, promotion and placement decisions that we believe will lead to a reduction in meat consumption."
"At a time when we know the entire nation should also be eating more fruit and veg, there is also an abundance of home-grown, seasonal and nutritious fresh produce available."
Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance said the supermarket should instead be supporting British farmers.
He explained: “Consumers have the right to select products based on their personal dietary preferences, but those choices should be based on a real understanding of their impact. Biodiversity and our countryside are enhanced by a strong market for sustainable British farm produce, the worst option would be to offer a choice between fake meat and imported meat products from unsustainable systems.
"The vast bulk of the public choose to lead meat inclusive diets and they will continue to opt for the real thing as long as they understand the social and environmental benefits of choosing sustainably produced meat from British farmers.”
A National Farmers' Union spokesperson said: “It’s crucial people are making informed diet decisions based on accurate information; when people buy British meat and dairy they are buying sustainable, local food, produced in areas often where it is difficult to grow other foods. The same cannot always be said for some highly processed meat alternatives.
“People should be reassured that if they want to enjoy meat and dairy products and at the same time reduce their carbon footprint – they can. In the UK, greenhouse gas emissions from beef production are half that of the global average. At a time when we know the entire nation should also be eating more fruit and veg, there is also an abundance of home-grown, seasonal and nutritious fresh produce available.
“British farmers are already leading the way in climate-friendly food and we have an ambition to do even more, working towards net zero food production by 2040. So you can eat healthily and more sustainably by eating balanced and choosing British.”
Paul Morozzo, Senior Forests Campaigner at Greenpeace said: “Tesco’s announcement, made last year, to boost sales of plant based meat alternatives will do little to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis without a parallel commitment to reduce meat sales and drop companies like JBS. So far, we’ve seen no such public commitments.
“Our meat consumption is far beyond what our planet can cope with. We can’t just shift from industrial chicken and pork fed on Brazilian soya to UK beef, our food system needs an overhaul. We need a rapid shift to an agro-ecological farming system in the UK with policies that protect farming jobs and nature, tackle food poverty and produce less but better quality meat."
A Tesco spokesperson said: “Many of our customers are moving towards flexitarian diets for both health and environmental reasons, which is why we’ve committed to increasing the amount of meat alternatives food we sell by 300 per cent by 2025.
"We remain proud supporters of British farming, with all our fresh beef coming from British and Irish farms, and we value our partnerships with UK growers who have always helped Tesco provide our customers with quality meat and produce. We continue to work across the farming community to support our goal to provide customers with healthy, sustainable, affordable food.”