With the ongoing debates on climate change and with plant-based foods on the increase in terms of both popularity and availability; the meat industry is being vocal in explaining the “vital importance of livestock farming” to the South West region.
At a recent seminar, stakeholders heard from a panel of industry experts and farmers. They educated visitors on a sector often unfairly blamed for its contribution to global warming.
The seminar focused on long-standing reports that livestock farming involved a choice between food production and caring for the environment. This has long been a contested issue. As Jonathan Foot, head of environment at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) pointed out, producing one kilo of beef takes a fraction of the water used to produce two pairs of jeans. He also highlighted the high nutritional value of meat.
NFU president Minette Batters said: “UK farming has some of the highest standards in the world both in terms of animal welfare and the environment…we need to encourage a return to whole foods.” The seminar also advocated the benefits of livestock resources to improve the quality of soil. This is becoming degraded but good soil equates to better crops. Livestock is also a source of natural fibres which will become more important in the move away from plastics.
Farmers in Wales are also having their say. This follows a statement by the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change hinting at the need for taxes on meat and dairy products to curb consumption by a fifth. There is also the suggestion of increasing UK tree cover from 13% to at least 17% by 2050.
According to the Farmers Union of Wales; even if all UK food production ceased overnight, the carbon emissions of the country would fall by just 10%. Farmers believe that introducing such measures will simply increase Britain’s reliance on food imported from countries with greater carbon footprints. This clearly defeats the object.
FUW president Glyn Roberts commented: “as acknowledged by the Committee, switching away from UK red meat would increase the nation’s carbon footprint because we have some of the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of meat reared anywhere in the world.” In addition, farmers in the uplands of Wales argue that on windswept thin soils; only livestock rearing is suitable as crop production is impractical.
Moreover, the union stressed that plant-based foods aren’t necessarily more environmentally friendly. All manufactured food, it argues is very dependent on agricultural systems and available natural resources; as well as transportation and how far the product has travelled.
Give Us Your Food
Meanwhile, down in Devon, ‘imaginative’ stallholders and food sellers are being sought for the 2020 festival in Exmouth in May. The four-day event is the largest free festival in the South West and now in its 24th year.
An Exmouth Festival spokesperson said: “We’re looking for imaginative and customer-focused local food sellers, offering a wide variety of tasty choices for our hungry festival-goers to cater for their different tastes and diets”. Time to get your applications in!