Less meat won’t save the planet

August 21, 2019

Radical environmentalists are trying to tell us eating less meat would save the planet. But would it? AHDB Beef & Lamb Sector Strategy Director Will Jackson says it should be about balance:

The recent report produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the impacts of global warming has reignited the crusade against eating meat, specifically on this occasion, beef. However, the real messaging of the report appears to have been twisted to suit the needs of headline writers and single-issue campaigners.

From Parliament to dinnertime chat at home, the perceived impact of livestock farming on the environment is the hot topic. The BBC’s interpretation of the report on August 6 fed the fire of anti-meat rhetoric, suggesting the report should lead viewers to question whether meat-free diets could be a long-term solution to climate change.

However, what the report actually stated was: “Balanced diets, featuring plant-based foods, such as those based on coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low-GHG emission systems, present major opportunities for adaptation and mitigation while generating significant co-benefits in terms of human health.” Doesn’t sound very anti-meat does it? In fact, it backs the common sense notion that responsible livestock farming is part of the solution to climate issues, not the biggest offender.

If you take nutrient density into account meat looks even better than a lot of alternatives.

Even as reporters tried to drive an anti-meat line in the press conference, experts from the panel repeatedly pushed back to say the analysis was not suggesting people turn away from meat – or any other food stuff. This did not stop the media creating their own story with the IPCC report as yet another nail in the coffin of eating meat.

Just a couple of days later, we had the announcement that Goldsmiths University of London has withdrawn beef from their menu on campus in a stance to tackle their own negative impact on the environment. This decision was, we are led to believe, partly steered by the messaging from the IPCC report.   

How much faith do you have in a university that bases policy on misinterpreting a report rather than science?

Along with other industry bodies, AHDB has been supporting farmers to highlight a key fact missed in almost all reporting on emissions and livestock farming: meat and dairy production in the UK is among the most sustainable in the world. We have clear standards on animal welfare, increasingly, farms have right grass management systems in place, we have plenty of rain to make naturally occurring grass growing which grazing animals eat to create protein for humans with very few additional inputs needed. It is a natural cycle that also returns fertility to soils through manure. . . 

New Zealand production is even more sustainable.

There is a lack of understanding about British beef production and the distinction between it and production elsewhere in the world. With British livestock grazing in grass-based systems, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are 2.5 times smaller than the global average. In fact, latest figures for the Committee on Climate change (CCC) acknowledge that emissions from farming amount to 9% of the national total, with 47% of that (so less than 4.5% total) from livestock digestion.

Again New Zealand is even better.

Combating environmental degradation is without doubt in everyone’s interest. However, the UK is very different to other places on earth and, because of our natural environment and the weather, remains one of the most sustainable places in the world to produce red meat. In fact, without grazing cattle and sheep, as much as 60% of agricultural land in the UK would be taken out of food production, due to the fact it is not suitable for cropping or growing other produce. This would also significantly change the cherished landscapes we have in this country which livestock help to manage efficiently and naturally.

Another recommendation in the IPCC report around livestock is to have improved manure management systems in place and to research into genetic improvement of livestock. At AHDB we are proud to support our farmers with a number of campaigns to combat both of these issues including work to neutralise slurry and Signet Breeding Services which provides genetic evaluations to livestock producers to help them identify sheep and cattle with superior breeding potential. . .

Amidst the slating of the beef industry for its environmental impact, there has also been a re-emergence of claims that red meat causes health problems,  with headlines such as ‘Red meat raises risk of breast cancer in women’ and ‘Swap beef burgers for chicken cuts’. However, the evidence continues to support the position that red meat plays a vital role in a healthy, balance diet. To help push that message, we’ve put together a number of fact-based tools with the Meat Advisory Panel (MAP) which help highlight the positive health benefits of eating red meat https://ahdb.org.uk/redmeatandhealth. There is also a Podcast available to listen to about meat and health here https://audioboom.com/posts/7319846-meat-and-health

So, the message when we are speaking to people about these challenges on welfare and red meat, is to look behind the headlines and seek out the facts. Plus, always remember, all foodstuffs have an environmental footprint of some kind and perhaps talk about the water demands of avocado farming or nut production for a change?

It should be all about balance.

Anyone familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of need understands the importance of food security.

Grass-raised free-range stock on extensive farms which are the norm here produce meat which has a much smaller environmental footprint than intensively farmed stock elsewhere and plays a very important role to play in a healthy diet.

Unfortunately this is lost in the rhetoric of people who want to save the planet without taking account of the cost to the world and the need to feed people.


Rural round-up

July 26, 2016

Kiwifruit exports reach record levels:

In June 2016, kiwifruit exports rose $105 million (47 percent) from June 2015 to reach $331 million, Statistics New Zealand said today. Overall, goods exports rose $109 million (2.6 percent) in June 2016 (to $4.3 billion).

The June 2016 rise was across all our top kiwifruit export destinations, but particularly Japan (up $55 million) and China (up $39 million). The quantities of kiwifruit exported also rose (up 32 percent), with gold kiwifruit up 49 percent, and green kiwifruit up 21 percent. . . .

New researchers should focus on primary industry:

Federated Farmers wants a plan to attract the world’s top scientists to New Zealand to concentrate on those who will work on primary sector initiatives and the environment.

Federated Farmers President Dr William Rolleston says it makes sense for the government’s $35 million ‘Entrepreneurial Universities’ programme to build knowledge in areas which are key to New Zealand’s economic and environmental needs.

The four year programme, announced by Minister Steven Joyce on Wednesday, aims to encourage the world’s leading researchers to bring their teams to work in New Zealand.

“This programme will help New Zealand keep up with the scientific developments already going on around the globe. . . 

Feds congratulates government on ambitious pest eradication project:

Federated Farmers fully backs the target to completely eradicate introduced predators from New Zealand by 2050 announced by the government today and agrees with the government that emerging technologies is now making such an ambitious target possible.

This project is going to require a team effort from scientists, farmers, government, politicians and rural communities.

“Our farmers live and work in our natural environment every day and in that sense are stewards of a significant part of New Zealand’s land, says Federated Farmers spokesperson for pest management Chris Allen.

“Farmers already spend a substantial amount of money on pest management. They also pay levies to OSPRI, to control vectors of tuberculosis, such as stoats and possums. . . 

Beekeepers stung by swarm of hive thefts –  Wilhelmina Shrimpton:

Beekeepers are seeking an urgent meeting with police as an increasing number of sticky-fingered thieves make off with beehives across the country.

The most recent incident was in Northland, where around $500,000-worth of hives were stolen from Topuni Forest more than a week ago. 

Some call the honey liquid gold – and for very good reason.

“If you’re getting high-grade manuka honey, the beekeepers can expect to get about $60 a kilogram,” Apiculture New Zealand’s Daniel Paul said. . . 

Profit warning makes Silver Fern Farms’ deal more critical – Allan Barber:

Last week’s profit warning from SFF chairman Rob Hewitt confirmed what industry observers suspected – this season has been affected by a combination of factors which has made achievement of the budgeted profit more remote than ever. At the half year Hewett had already warned the year end result would be materially different from budget without specifying numbers. The latest warning indicates break even at best.

The current season has suffered from reduced livestock volumes, regular rain and grass growth in most parts of the country which even out supply patterns, and an obstinately strong NZ dollar. Processors have been squeezed at both ends, paying too much for livestock and not earning enough from the market. . .

Nervous times at Silver Fern Farms – Keith Woodford:

Silver Fern Farms announced last week to its farmer suppliers that it now expects no more than a breakeven return for the year ending 30 September 2016.  This should focus the minds of its farmer shareholders, who vote on 12 August as to whether or not Silver Fern Farms should proceed with the partial takeover by Shanghai Maling. 

The disappointing projected financial outcome – which could yet get worse – reinforces the notion that Silver Fern Farms lacks the necessary financial resilience to go it alone. There is increasing risk that without completion of the Shanghai Maling buy-in, that Silver Fern Farms will lose the support of its bankers and be placed in receivership. That is not an attractive option, for what has in recent years been New Zealand’s largest meat processor. . . 

UK milk production drops 10% in a year – Alexa Cook:

Many British dairy farmers are getting out of the industry due to plummeting milk prices and production, says a UK dairy analyst.

Farmers are being paid from 10 to 30 pence a litre at a time when most farms need 25 to 30 pence a litre to meet the cost of production.

The UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) – the British equivalent of DairyNZ – has reported more than 1000 farms have closed since June 2013, leaving about 9500 in operation.

The board’s senior dairy analyst Luke Crossman said milk production had fallen off sharply. . . 

Pea growers work with MPI to rid Wairarapa of weevil pest:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), and local pea growers, are planning urgent action to eradicate a small Wairarapa population of a newly discovered weevil that damages pea crops.

The pea weevil (Bruchus pisorum) has been found in pea seeds grown on 8 different Wairarapa properties. It has also been found in 3 seed storage facilities in the region.

The weevil larvae feed on growing pea pods, damaging crops. Its discovery in the Wairarapa has long-term implications for pea production in New Zealand and the pea growing industry is strongly supportive of moves to attempt to get rid of it. . . 

NZDF-Led Projects Boost Drought Resilience of Tongan Communities:

Community projects undertaken by a multi-national task group led by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) are expected to reduce the vulnerability of remote communities to the impact of drought, Tongan officlals say.

The projects, designed to improve water storage in two main islands in Tonga’s Ha’apai island group, were undertaken as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight 2016 and have been formally handed over today to the Tongan Government.

“Tropic Twilight conducted a vast range of activities that will directly improve the resilience of communities in Ha’apai in addressing some water security issues and safety equipment shortages. It was also an opportune time to collaborate with partners to address health issues,” said Tongan Deputy Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni. . . 

Punakaiki Fund Invests in Agtract:

Taranaki rural job management software Agtract has closed a funding round with high-growth investorPunakaiki Fund.

The Agtract software drastically reduces the time it takes for rural contractors to do management tasks and create invoices, saving them up to a week’s work each month.

“Agtract does the administrative grunt work so rural contractors can do what they do best: helping farmers,” says CEO Chris West, who co-founded Agtract with his brother James after feeling the pain first hand of having to do admin work for a rural contractor.

“I was an employee of a contractor in Taranaki and had to fill in job sheet after job sheet. So much of what I did was repetitive, and even more of what the contractor did could’ve been automated. I created an early software solution, saw that it saved time and money, and realised I was onto a winner. Agtract is the result.” . . .


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