Scrutiny of the worlds meat production, and particularly its effect on the environment and carbon are all over the TV at the moment. This is probably a good thing, BUT the quality of some of these programmes is highly variable, and the conclusions some of them draw leave a lot to be desired.
I’ve watched quite few of them from Channel 4’s Veganville, and How to Steal a Piglet (in the dubious entertainment category, not science) to last night’s Panorama with Chris Packham, and George Monbiot’s Apocalypse Cow. To give Chris Packham his credit his programme was really on population, and was extremely interesting, but did visit a Brazilian farm growing soya for animal feed, and didn’t mention how ruminants can thrive on proper food (diverse natural plants). George M’s view and illustration of what damage intensive livestock farming can do can’t be argued with, but again no mention of truly sustainable systems which build wildlife. I’m not even going to start on his idea that we can do away with farmers and thrive on protein from vats of fermented microbes
powered by electricity.
But then I shouldn’t be surprised. The group that I do a lot with and champion sustainable regenerative livestock, the Pasture Fed Livestock Association (PFLA) is tiny. We have 500 members in the UK and Ireland (not all farmers) and there are about 170,000 farmers just in England. So beef, lamb and dairy farmers feeding 100% grass/ pasture and making sure its labelled all through the supply chain are in the extreme minority.
However things are changing. The PFLA membership has doubled in the last 3 years, after being founded 10 years ago. More farmers are wanting to make the change and fully embrace properly sustainable livestock. Also I believe growing customer awareness means that more folk are understanding the sometimes complex and subtle messages, and not going vegan but switching to better meat.
I firmly believe that cattle and sheep that regenerate land and wildlife should be a vital part of the planet and our food system, but I know I need to collect more data (particularly on soil carbon) and work with more people to unequivocally prove it.
So overall I am positive about our farms future. And on the subject of fermented microbes, don’t we already have something rather wonderful that can turn fermented inedible plant material into tasty protein without electricity?