Countryside columnist Charlie Beaty gives us her top reasons to back British farming in 2020.
1. UK farming practices are known to be some of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly in the world
We live in a world of finite resources with an atmosphere that is rapidly warming. Food sourcing is up there with the most influential decisions we can make regarding the wellbeing of our planet. Recently, agriculture has been at the forefront of criticism regarding climate change, but this has been very generalised.
Meat consumption in particular has been targeted, with the IPCC stating that reducing the consumption of meat is vital to reducing environmental impact. But rather than being the problem, British agriculture is actually part of the climate change solution. Livestock in the UK, including cattle and sheep, are grazed on areas of land that cannot be used to grow crops.
By grazing these areas and keeping them fertile and actively growing, we are maintaining the absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere as the grass grows. Here in the UK, 10 million hectares of grassland hold 600 million tonnes of CO2, while sequestering another 2.4 million tonnes per year.
In reality, UK agriculture is contributing to around 10% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, but this statistic ignores our ability to act as a carbon sink.
British agriculture is among the most sustainable in the world. Our temperate climate is perfect for growing grass, which is why we can produce meat and milk so sustainably.
Then let’s talk about our crop production. The vivid landscape and range of flora and fauna that surrounds us is testament to the high standards, rules and regulations that out farmers abide by. While striving to produce the top yields of top-quality produce, we are also maintaining, sustaining and improving the environment around us. Now if that isn’t a reason to back British farmers, I don’t know what is.
The Red Tractor logo is a perfect way to tell if the produce you're buying has been produced at the highest standard with the lowest impact on the environment. The Red Tractor scheme encourages farmers to protect and maintain the environment by offering their mark of quality, making the end product more appealing to the consumer. You can find out more information on the Red Tractor scheme here, or better still, go and read my article on British food standards and why they're a cut above the rest.
Grazing livestock play a massive part in maintaining the British landscape and managing wildlife habitats. Nearly all habitats found in the UK require some level of grazing to maintain their structure and composition, which a lot of plants and animals depend on for survival.
We work hard throughout the year to delivery food that is of an outstanding quality and incredible flavour, yet still affordable. It is with the support of the general public that we’re able to maintain this.
It shares this title with Austria, Switzerland and New Zealand, according to the World Animal Protection Index, which uses countries commitments to protect their animals and improve welfare to rank them.
British farmers not only play a massive part in feeding our population, they also employ over 4 million people within the sector. British farmers supply 61% of the food consumed here in the UK, and is the foundation of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, food and drink.
This year, renewable energy sources provided more electricity to UK homes and businesses than fossil fuels since the UK’s first power plant fired up in 1882. Over 30% of UK farmers use wind, sun, by-products and energy crops to produce clean and low-carbon energy.
As well as being a sustainable source of meat, eggs and dairy products, British livestock also provide us with materials such as wool, leather and down, which are all completely biodegradable with a range of uses such as clothing and insulation.
Alternatives to these include synthetic fibres such as nylon and polyester – neither of which are biodegradable and both require petrochemicals to create.
Here in the UK, wool is largely considered to be a by-product of the agricultural industry. In a lot of cases, it actually costs the farmer more to shear the sheep than the fleece is worth.
Shearing is a necessity for welfare reasons though, to prevent sheep overheating or being struck with flystrike over the summer months. Shearing is always carried out by qualified professionals so that there is no harm and minimal stress to the animal.
Protein is an essential part of the human diet, helping to build, repair and maintain your body’s structures. Proteins are made up of amino acids, and our bodies need a balance of all 22 types of amino acids to function properly, 9 of which we cannot produce ourselves and are known as ‘essential amino acids’.
A complete protein source is a food that contains all 9 of these amino acids, such as beef, lamb, dairy products, fish and poultry. In contrast, most plant proteins are incomplete, meaning that they are missing at least one of the essential amino acids.
Lamb and beef are naturally rich in protein, low in sodium and provides vitamins and minerals that are vital for good health - Zinc, Selenium, Taurine, CLA, Phosphorus, Iron and Creatine. Of these, CLA is only found in the meat of ruminant animals and promotes muscle building and fat loss.
By eating British meat, you are ensuring that there is a demand, and therefore protecting the existence of our British breeds. If there was no demand for the meat of these animals, they would simply disappear from our countryside as there is no other sustainable way to protect them. To lose the existence of our British livestock would be to lose the essence of the Great British countryside.
You can back British farmers by looking for the Red Tractor logo when you shop, or even better, supporting your local butchers and farm shops. Look into lamb or beef boxes supplied directly from the farm in your local area, or for a local milkman or milk vending machine. Keep the veggies on your plate seasonal and local. It’s the small changes for you, as the general public, that make a huge difference to us, as farmers.
Need some inspiration? Why not take a look at some fantastic British beef recipes here.