Rural round-up

September 2, 2019

Government policy, rule changes are hitting farmers in the pocket – Hayden Dillon:

A capital crunch is starting to impact farmers as the banks get more cagey about lending to dairy and the sheep and beef sectors, writes Hayden Dillon, head of agribusiness and a managing partner at Findex.

Things are looking okay externally. The big picture for our safe, efficiently produced protein is still strong, as shown by good commodity prices. But three domestic drivers have converged to cause difficulties for farmers, particularly those with a lot of debt or wanting capital to grow.

Firstly, changes imposed by the Overseas Investment Office have affected the value of and demand for land. We no longer have the same foreign capital coming in for our biggest farming sector – sheep, beef and dairy and our productive assets there. . .

More farmland goes into trees – Pam Tipa:

A large foreign-financed but New Zealand owned investment company has brought a big station in the Wairarapa for forestry development.

Social, employment and environmental sustainability issues will be included in plans to ensure a stable local rural community, it claims.

Kauri Forestry LP, a forestry business built, managed and governed by Craigmore Sustainables, has purchased Lagoon Hills Station in Wairarapa. . .

Could India be the next big thing for New Zealand sheep meat? – Jamie Gray:

Hopes are running high that India could be the next big thing for New Zealand sheep meat exports if the two countries form closer economic ties.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) involves 16 countries – the 10 members of ASEAN, plus the six countries with which ASEAN has free trade agreements—Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand.

The meat industry has expectations that RCEP will form a platform that will allow New Zealand access to India, which at the moment imposes high tariffs on imported goods.

“My personal view is that India is the next big prize,” Tim Ritchie, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, said. . .

 

Online training platform Tahi Ngātahi: A ‘game-changer’ for wool harvesting industry:

Shearing stalwart Jock Martin is the driving force behind online training platform, Tahi Ngātahi, which is revolutionising the way the wool harvesting industry trains its workforce.

Martin has been part of Otago and Southland’s wool harvesting scene for over 30 years and is a second generation shearer.

Passionate about improving skills and safety, he believed new e-learning platform Tahi Ngātahi was the ‘game-changer’ the industry has been waiting for.

Keeping workers injury-free in a physically demanding occupation is a big issue for the wool harvesting industry. . .

From vegan interns to visiting preschoolers, all are welcome at the ECO School – Rebecca Black:

“Do you mind goat’s milk in your tea?” Dani Lebo is a considerate host, though she quickly admits goat’s milk is really the only option because there are no other milking animals on her farm.

So goat’s milk it is, fresh and delicious.

The goats, like everything on five-hectare Kaitiaki Farm, are a deliberate choice. They’re lighter on the steep clay-heavy hills than cattle or sheep. . .

Time to move the ‘meat vs plant’ debate beyond crude headlines – Joanna Blythman,:

After all those months of BBC News regurgitating the bandwagon ‘reduce red meat to save the planet’ script, what a refreshing change it was to hear a thoughtful discussion on the Today programme with Patrick Holden, director of the Sustainable Food Trust, arguing convincingly for more, not less, red meat consumption.

While Vicki Hird from Sustain stuck to the ‘less but better meat’ mantra, Holden moved on this stale and overcooked debate. He argued persuasively that every country should align its diet to the productive capacity of its land. In other words, what’s on our plates should reflect the ecology of the country we live in. Two-thirds of UK land is grass, so red meat and dairy should form a significant proportion of our diets. When these foods come from fully pasture-fed animals, we can eat them, as Holden put it, sustainably, and with a clear conscience. In terms of climate effects, any methane produced by livestock is short-lived and offset by the benefit of the carbon that is sequestered in the permanent pastures they graze. . . 


Rural round-up

November 17, 2018

’Cutest sheep in the world’ turns heads in Christchurch

A new breed of sheep debuting at the New Zealand Agricultural Show in Christchurch is proving very popular with the crowds.

The Swiss Valais Blacknose, which are considered to be the “the cutest sheep in the world,” have a black head and black knees, and a fluffy white fleece.

Wairarapa farmer Christine Reed, along with several business partners formed Valais Blacknose NZ and imported the breed as embryos from the UK about a year and a half ago. . .

Biosecurity experience bears fruit :

When kiwifruit bacteria Psa-V appeared in New Zealand in 2010, it reshaped the industry’s biosecurity practices. Inside Dairy spoke to one grower about how dairy farmers facing Mycoplasma bovis can learn from his experience.

Kiwifruit growers Robbie Ellison and his wife Karen run Makaira Orchards in Te Puke, south east of Tauranga. When the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) announced in November 2010 that Psa-V had been discovered in a neighbouring orchard, the airborne disease was found on the Ellisons’ crops.

“We were right in the thick of it,” says Robbie. “I never want to go through another summer like that again. DairyNZ and dairy farmers were very supportive of kiwifruit growers during our crisis, so I’d like to return the favour now they’re dealing with Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis).” . . 

Money saving tips shared – Ken Muir:

 Dairying can be a tough life for many farmers but it’s especially difficult if you’re a woman on your own with a family to raise.

However, Northland farmer Lyn Webster, who spoke to the Dairy Women’s Network in Gore last week, has turned a need to make best use of her resources into a publishing and online enterprise, sharing her money-saving practices with anyone who cares to listen.

She’s sold out the first edition of the story of her frugal lifestyle Pig Tits and Parsley Sauce and a new edition with a new title Save, Make, Do will be published by Random House next year.

Ms Webster was born and bred in Otago and went to Taieri College followed by university after a period of working. . . 

Nature’s power pack meat & veges :

 What is Nature’s Power Pack when it comes to eating? Is it meat? Is it vege? Is it superfoods? Is it a certain type of dietary regime? It’s probably no surprise for those omnivores that enjoy including meat in their diet, but to get a big bang for nutrition buck don’t look past a moderate portion of protein such as lean red meat with a good portion of veggies. Yep it’s that simple.

So here’s two reasons why animal protein should not be overlooked as a smart dietary choice.  . . 

Veganism was behind the ‘meat tax’ hype – so what happened to critical thinking? – Joanna Blythman:

Much media reporting of food and health is fatuous and lazy, but coverage of the proposed ‘meat tax’ hit a new low of ignorance, or if you’re less charitable, intellectual dishonesty.

Was it too much to ask that journalists who reported as unimpeachable scientific ‘fact’ the recommendations from the University of Oxford’s Oxford Martin School – which describes itself as ‘a world-leading centre of pioneering research that addresses global challenges’ – tempered their headlines with the fact that the lead researcher, Dr Marco Springmann, is a loud-and-proud vegan?

It’s naive to think that his beliefs didn’t influence the design of this number-crunching research. Mathematical modelling (the type used here) is about as weak and unreliable as research gets. It is based on highly debatable assumptions and doesn’t take full account of ‘confounding factors’, such as smoking, exercise, alcohol and class. . .

The enduring legacy of merino – Katrina Kufer:

Dubai Opera’s Sky Garden exclusively hosts the Loro Piana, in partnership with Tashkeel, Merino wool cloud installation that showcases the World Record Bale alongside a special commission by Calligraffiti artist eL Seed.

Under the royal patronage and support of H.H. Sheikha Lateefa bint Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, founder and director of Tashkeel, Italian luxury textiles brand Loro Piana’s The Gift of Kings and The Record Bale, The Noblest of Woolsinstallation comes to Dubai after premiering at Art Basel Hong Kong. Featured alongside a special commission by French-Tunisian street artist eL Seed — known for large-scale ‘Calligraffiti’ works — the immersive installation is created from the world record holding Merino wool in its raw form. . .

 


Rural round-up

October 26, 2018

Tree planting plan lacks clarity – Neal Wallace:

The Government’s billion-tree planting programme lacks clarity with ministers delivering conflicting messages, Canterbury University expert Professor Euan Mason says.

Until there is consistency on the policy’s objective, definitive decisions cannot be made on where trees are planted, species, planting incentives and the economic and social impacts.

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones views the policy as regional economic development and carbon sequestering as part of climate change policy. . . 

Guy Trafford assesses the mess the US dairy industry is in from the recent unintended consequences of bad trade policies. He also reviews Canterbury dairy farm sales activity:

While most involved in New Zealand dairy farming are aware that around the globe nobody appears to be getting rich in the industry, some interesting figures have recently come out of Wisconsin.

It is the second largest American state for dairy production based upon cow numbers currently, and it is notable for the wrong reasons.

Between January 1st and August 31st this year 429 farms have closed down. This is likely to exceed the record year for closures of 2011 when 647 farms closed. While many of the closures are at the smaller end of the scale – less than 100 cows – an increasing number are larger and over 300 cows. The reasons given for the closures are the low returns and growing debts over successive years. . . 

Red meat sector welcomes CPTPP ratification:

The red meat sector welcomes the ratification of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

New Zealand is now the fourth country to complete its domestic ratification process along with Mexico, Singapore, and Japan. The agreement requires at least six of the eleven member countries to ratify the agreement before it can come into force. Consequently, we strongly encourage the remaining member countries to do so before the end of this year. . .

Horticulture submission not nonsense:

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says he was surprised by the attitude of some members of the Education and Workforce Select Committee when he spoke to the organisation’s submission on the Employment Relations (Triangular Relationships) Amendment Bill today.

“I thank National MP Nikki Kaye for calling out the comments about our submission from Labour MP Kieran McAnulty. We appeared in good faith to speak to our submission and were speechless when we were told we did not understand what the Bill proposes and then had to watch the MPs fight about it,” Chapman says. . . 

Apple and stonefruit industry members successfully broker meeting between MPI and US facility to aid reaccreditation process:

The nursery and fruit-growing companies at the heart of the legal action against MPI over seized plants and plant material have been working hard to facilitate the rebuilding of the relationship between MPI and the USA-based Clean Plant Centre North West (CPCNW).

This facility has supplied New Zealand orchards and nurseries with new plant varieties for over 30 years and plays a critical role in the future of the New Zealand apple and stonefruit export industry. As part of MPI’s recent review and audit, accreditation of the facility was withdrawn.  . . 

‘Non-dairy milks? I wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole’: Food journalist JOANNA BLYTHMAN destroys the healthy alt-milk myth:

Non-dairy ‘milks’? As a seasoned investigative food journalist, I wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole.

So I’m sorry to see that people are forking out more for them than dairy milk. 

Coffee chains typically charge an extra fee if you want a latte made with an alt-milk – because we’ve been led to believe they’ll make us healthier, and that buying them is more virtuous.

Let’s look at how the vast majority of milk lookalikes are made. . . 

 


Fight back against fake meat

July 4, 2018

Air New Zealand is serving the impossible burger:

Air New Zealand is giving customers a taste of the future with a new inflight collaboration with Silicon Valley food tech start-up Impossible Foods.

The airline is the first in the world to serve the award-winning, plant-based Impossible Burger which is now available as part of its Business Premier menu on flights from Los Angeles to Auckland.

Impossible Burger’s magic ingredient is an iron-containing molecule called heme which comes from the roots of soy plants. The heme in the Impossible Burger is the same as the heme found in animal meat. The result is a plant-based burger patty that cooks, smells and tastes like beef but contains no animal products whatsoever. . . 

Air New Zealand will serve the Impossible Burger on flights NZ1 and NZ5 from Los Angeles to Auckland through until late October.

Many farmers and some MPs aren’t impressed that the national airline is serving fake meat.

Shouldn’t it be showcasing New Zealand’s fine, free range real meat?

The fake meat burgers will only be served on flights from the USA when the airline is less likely to be using New Zealand produce and only for three months.

But alternative proteins are one of the challenges facing traditional primary producers.

Fake meat is being sold as healthier and better for the environment, but is it?

Joanna Blythman thinks not and says: Fake meat: Impossibly hard to swallow :

The Impossible Burger is arguably the perfect veggie analog to the ubiquitous beef burger and it is making a big splash as the veggie burger that ‘bleeds’. Joanna Blythman, a renowned investigator of the unpronounceable ingredients in processed food, has a look at the newest fake meat arrival.

The ‘Impossible Burger’ is being marketed in the US as the revolutionary product that will make meat redundant. Its ingredients are as follows: water, textured wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, natural flavors, leghemoglobin (soy), yeast extract, salt, soy protein isolate, konjac gum, xanthan gum, vitamins and zinc.

Now even for me, a seasoned investigator of obscure techno-ingredients, this list requires annotation. Let’s start with its first ingredient by weight: water. Suffice it to say that no quality product uses it as a bulk ingredient. Textured wheat protein, potato protein and soya protein isolate are all powdery derivatives, extracted from their eponymous food using hi-tech chemical and physical methods that are veiled in commercial secrecy. Coconut oil has a trendy ‘superfood’ ring to it, except that here it isn’t raw, so the inherent nutrition of the nut has been heavily compromised by the harsh industrial refining process to which it has been subjected. Konjac and xanthan are industrial hydrocolloid gums. (The latter was designed to thicken the drilling mud in the oil industry.) Their role here is to absorb all that water and glue together ingredients that wouldn’t naturally bond. . . 

She goes on to dissect the flavourings which don’t sound very appetising either.

And what of the most arcane ingredient in this faux meat? Soy leghemoglobin (SLH) is a vat-grown, genetically engineered form of the heme iron found in the root nodules of soybean plants. We’re told that it gives the fake meat a ‘bloody’, meat-like taste and colour. It has emerged that the US Food and Drug Administration’s view is that “the current arguments at hand, individually and collectively, were not enough to establish the safety of SLH for consumption”. . .

I am open to the use of genetic modification but I suspect many of those lauding fake meat as better than the real thing aren’t.

So that’s the Impossible Burger: water, protein powders, glues, factory flavourings, flavour enhancers, synthetic vitamins – all signifiers of low-grade, ultra-processed food – and a novel ingredient that has no proven track record of safety.

Reading this list of ingredients, it’s not the sort of product that I, and many other food-aware citizens, would buy. It’s the very antithesis of local food with a transparent provenance and backstory. I’d have absolutely no chance of tracing the origins or uncovering any substantive detail on the assiduously guarded production methods behind its utterly anonymous components.

And although the sales pitch for the Impossible burger is that it’s ‘made from simple, all-natural ingredients’, it’s patently the brainchild of a technocratic mindset, one brought to us by food engineers and scientists whose natural environment is the laboratory and the factory – not the kitchen, farm or field – and people who believe that everything nature can do, man can do so much better, and more profitably. . .

I’m also awed by nature’s complex systems that gift us humans the privilege of nutritionally perfect, health-giving natural foods, be they eggs, milk, meat, cereals, or fruit and vegetables. Cutting-edge food engineers who create ‘plant meat’ are undeniably clever, but they do not have nature’s sure nutritional judgment, good taste, and wise, all-seeing intelligence, or fully understand how her elaborate natural systems work.

It’s a great pity that the vegan versus omnivore debate has become so heated and binary. The equation that plant food is good and animal food is bad, is simplistic at best. Those who rush to embrace the ‘plant meat’ revolution as our environmental and ethical salvation, fail to interrogate the product in any deeper way, and that’s a significant blind spot in evaluating its ultimate sustainability and moral rightness.

Like it or not, there’s a market for fake meat and as Landcare Trust Nelson-Marlborough coordinator  Annette Litherland says, farmers must find ‘sweet spot’ of economic, environmental sustainability if we’re going to compete with it.


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